SpaceX’s long-awaited orbital test flight of its Starship spacecraft faces a potential delay as congressmen urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to accelerate its regulatory review.
The massive 400-foot tall Starship system could make its highly anticipated launch in the coming days from SpaceX’s Starbase site in South Texas, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has already granted approval.
However, final permission must also come from the FWS regarding environmental impact, with the launch tentatively planned for November 17, two Texas congressmen have called on the wildlife agency to expedite their assessment so progress is not hindered.
In a letter to the FWS, the congressmen stated: “The United States is currently in a space race with the rest of the world — and the Federal government should not hinder public companies as they develop and push United States to remain a leader in the space exploration realm. It is of the utmost importance that FWS makes their environmental review decision sooner rather than later.”
SpaceX must receive the FWS determination before it can proceed with the orbital launch, while the deadline is unclear, the congressmen’s urgent appeal aims to prevent delays that could push the test flight.
SpaceX is poised to make history with the orbital mission of its next-generation rocket and spacecraft, monumental test will launch Starship on a journey to orbit Earth and then splashdown off the coast of Hawaii.
A successful flight would prove Starship’s ability to reach orbit, a pivotal milestone for Elon Musk’s vision of utilizing the fully reusable rocket for moon and Mars missions.
SpaceX has been maturing the Starship system through extensive ground and high-altitude testing, regulatory reviews introduce uncertainty on the timeline to orbit.
With the FAA license secured, clearance from the FWS is the final hurdle, wildlife agency must assess any potential impact to local endangered species and habitats from Starship’s launch and landing.
SpaceX will be hoping the FWS determination comes through in time for its target November 17 launch date. Every day of delay pushes the historic orbital flight further down the road, but the company has no control over the regulatory timetable.
For now, teams continue readying the Starship rocket and spacecraft for liftoff while awaiting word from the FWS. SpaceX’s founder will be hoping the bureaucratic process doesn’t hamper his run at making history.