More Fallout for SpaceX's Rocket Launch

Environmental groups aren't happy and are suing the FAA over Starship's launch
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 2, 2023 1:15 PM CDT
FAA Gets Sued Over SpaceX Launch
SpaceX's Starship turns after its launch from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, on April 20.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Wildlife and environmental groups sued the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday over SpaceX’s launch last month of its giant rocket from Texas. SpaceX’s Starship soared 24 miles high before exploding over the Gulf of Mexico on April 20. The rocket's self-destruct system caused the nearly 400-foot rocket to blow up, reports the AP, as it spun out of control just minutes into the test flight. An attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs, said the groups are suing over what they consider to be the FAA's failure to fully consider the environmental impacts of the Starship program near Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. They asked the court to throw out the five-year license the FAA granted to SpaceX. The FAA declined comment, noting it doesn't comment on ongoing litigation.

The FAA is overseeing the accident investigation and has ordered all SpaceX Starships grounded until it's certain that public safety won't be compromised. Over the weekend, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said his company could be ready to launch the next Starship in six to eight weeks with the FAA's OK. No injuries or significant damage to public property was reported from any of the rocket wreckage or flying pad debris. A large crater was carved into the concrete pad, as most of the rocket's 33 main engines ignited at liftoff. The launch pad is on a remote site on the southernmost tip of Texas. The US Fish and Wildlife Service reported last week that large concrete chunks, stainless steel sheets, metal, and other objects were hurled thousands of feet from the pad. In addition, a plume of pulverized concrete sent material up to 6.4 miles northwest of the pad.

Joining the CBD in the lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Washington, are the American Bird Conservancy, Surfrider Foundation, Save RGV (Rio Grande Valley), and Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. "It's vital that we protect life on Earth even as we look to the stars," the CBD's Jared Margolis said. "Federal officials should defend vulnerable wildlife and front-line communities, not give a pass to corporate interests that want to use treasured coastal landscapes as a dumping ground for space waste." Musk said Saturday changes are being made to avoid what he called a dust storm and "rock tornado" at the next launch.

(More SpaceX stories.)

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