After numerous reports surfaced earlier this week suggesting that SpaceX would fly its Starship rocket for the first time next week, a notice issued by Boca Chica authorities put the matter to rest. A road closure notice prevented people from accessing the highway and beach located near the test facility.
A new notice issued yesterday does close nearby locations, but these are only for ground tests – indicating more waiting before the 329-foot rocket finally takes to the skies.
The buzz surrounding SpaceX’s orbital launch attempt suddenly picked up pace about two months after the company successfully conducted a static ignition test of its first-stage Starship Super Heavy booster. Initial speculation, fueled by NASA and the FAA, hinted at a possible launch as early as April 10, but as we noted yesterday, while the two agencies have set a date, there has been no similar notification from Cameron County.
That mystery has been solved today with a new notice from County Judge Eddy Trevino Jr. ordering the closure of Boca Chica Beach and Highway 4 on April 10, with alternate dates of April 11 and April 12. However, while that’s all well and good, the judge’s notice works to put any speculation about a test flight of the track to rest, as it states
I have ordered the closure of Boca Chica Beach and Highway 4 for the protection of public health and safety during SpaceX's non-flight test activities on April 10, 2023, from 8:00 a.m. C.S.T. to 8:00 p.m. C.S.T., or on April 11 or April 12, 2023, from 8:00 a.m. C.S.T. to 8:00 p.m. C.S.T. 00 C.S.T. If SpaceX does not complete its planned non-flight test on April 10, 2023, then SpaceX may use the alternate date to complete its test activities.
SpaceX workers join the Starship to the Super Heavy Booster in Boca Chica, Texas. A variant of the upper stage rocket will allow NASA astronauts to land on the surface of the moon.
Apparently, the notice only closes the beaches and roads for “non-flight test activities” and it is careful to keep that in mind throughout the notice. This is only natural, since SpaceX has not yet obtained a launch permit from the FAA, which is necessary for the company to conduct the tests.
In this regard, there are rumors that SpaceX will face a slew of lawsuits if the FAA provides it with a launch license. These lawsuits could delay launch attempts, so the company is eager to keep the launch date secret and launch as soon as it receives regulatory approval. All of this is speculation, of course, but the environmental issues surrounding Boca Chica Beach have been a thorny part of Starship’s development process.
FAA operations advisories continue to reserve test dates for Starship, and NASA’s placeholder for the observation aircraft is in place. However, the FAA has been quick to clarify that any mention of Starship in its advisory is not an indicator of launch license approval, nor does it emphasize that approval is imminent. Meanwhile, SpaceX is busy stacking and dismantling its boosters and upper spacecraft as it continues its testing.