back to article Annoyed US regulator warns it might knock SpaceX's shiny new Texas tower down

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned SpaceX it has not completed an environmental review of a new tower currently under construction at its launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, indicating the tower might have to be demolished. The proposed new "integration tower" (outlined in a May scoping summary here) is …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah yes,

    Those pesky rules you cannot buy your way around..

    1. GreggS

      unless you're Boeing (and until you get caught out).

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Ah yes,

      How do you know he can't buy his way round the rules? He hasn't tried... Yet...

    3. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Ah yes,

      He should have built in India. Then he would have found the opposite, having to pay to avoid all the sudden new rules.

  2. martinusher Silver badge

    FAA -- Environmental Champions?

    The one thing you can say about aviation is that its an environmental disaster area. Its the one industry that paves over large chunks of land, uses up incredible amounts of fossil fuels (airports are the only place in the US you can buy leaded petrol, its used by most light aircraft) and doesn't give a damn about noise pollution (for a start). It gets a pass because it is socially necessary -- currently its benefits seem to outweigh its costs.

    The FAA's interest in tall structures is typically confined to putting some kind of marker on them to prevent low flying aircraft from running into them. SpaceX's launch facility is off limits to general aviation so there's little danger of that so what's the beef? My guess is that there's some crusty old geezer in the agency that just doesn't like Musk. The FAA is a bit of a boy's club anyway, you have to have a certain clubby mindset to join and be a part of that industry.

    Still, harassing SpaceX probably makes a bit of a change from bothering aircraft modellers and looking through ADS-B logs for anything that could be regarded as a violation.

    1. Scott Pedigo
      Meh

      Re: FAA -- Environmental Champions?

      >> harassing SpaceX probably makes a bit of a change from bothering aircraft modellers

      It's a mixed bag with the FAA.

      A long time ago, I used to go parachuting. I still have a subscription to the USPA (United State Parachute Association) magazine. The organization helps protect the rights of skydivers, and they work closely with the FAA to do that.

      There's the occasional story of some people who want to keep the local public airport only for their own use and deny skydivers the right to use it. Then the USPA will help the local skydiving business to lobby the FAA to get them to enforce the law or regulation which guarantees the skydivers access to the airport.

      The other side of the coin is that occasionally the FAA tries to introduce some onerous restrictions on skydiving, based on some rationale which doesn't make sense, and the USPA has to lobby against it.

    2. rcxb1

      Re: FAA -- Environmental Champions?

      <blockquote>Its the one industry that paves over large chunks of land,</blockquote>

      Trains and autos need much more land than aviation.

      <blockquote>uses up incredible amounts of fossil fuels</blockquote>

      Aviation is much more fuel efficient than autos per passenger-mile.

      <blockquote>and doesn't give a damn about noise pollution (for a start).</blockquote>

      The noise regulations on airports continue getting ever more strict. Aircraft and airports are far less noisy than they were a few decades ago. But it's a long, slow process.

      My time living next to a mid-sized airport was far more peaceful than my time living next to train tracks.

      1. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: FAA -- Environmental Champions?

        "Aviation is much more fuel efficient than autos per passenger-mile."

        than a bus full of passengers? or a single fat capitalist in a suv?

        Don't forget the fat capitalists travels solo in a private jet to play golf.

        1. rcxb1

          Re: FAA -- Environmental Champions?

          A fully loaded bus *could be* more fuel efficient than a jet, particularly for short hops. But most of the time jets are close to fully loaded with passengers, while the bus is partially empty. The result being jets beat buses on fuel efficiency per passenger on average. e.g.:

          https://truecostblog.com/2010/05/27/fuel-efficiency-modes-of-transportation-ranked-by-mpg/

          https://afdc.energy.gov/data/10311

          And once we have electric planes, even the short hops will move in favour of planes:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH4b3sAs-l8

      2. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: FAA -- Environmental Champions?

        and remember the only reason rich people take the (air) bus is because they are permitted to sit segregated from the plebs at the front.

      3. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

        Re: FAA -- Environmental Champions?

        "Trains and autos need much more land than aviation."

        Roads and car-parks cover vast amounts of land, trains less so and airports even less. It's a question of numbers.

        "Aviation is much more fuel efficient than autos per passenger-mile."

        Only once airborne. Take-offs apparently burn a lot of juice. Still, aeroplanes do only take-off once per journey and those can be long so that can be a minor consideration for long-haul flights.

        "Aircraft and airports are far less noisy than they were a few decades ago."

        Very true, especially since they binned my beloved Concorde; that one used to shake the world, lovely though she was. But current designs have a limit to how quiet they can be while remaining profitable enough for the bosses and shareholders. Absent returning to airships with silenced engines, something I would truly love to see, noise is not going away any time soon. Even miles away from their homes, aeroplanes can disturb our Summer afternoons. It's just how the physics works.

        "My time living next to a mid-sized airport was far more peaceful than my time living next to train tracks."

        That one's down to local conditions. Some railway tracks are used by huge, unending freight trains that are awesomely seismic in their passage, others less so. Some airports are relatively quiet, others are Heathrow. It's like our allotment of Dark Sky, either you are lucky to have some or not. Our experiences of local noise and pollution is spotty, semi-random and not personal. It's just our bad luck if we live near a bad one.

        Though I'd imagine Mr. Musty, Mr. Bozo and others have relatively silent skies over each of their many houses.

    3. HelpfulJohn Bronze badge

      Re: FAA -- Environmental Champions?

      "... is off limits to general aviation so there's little danger of that so what's the beef?"

      I assume the area used by SpaceX is large, flat and unobstructed enough to be considered a possible emergency landing site for crippled aircraft? If so, the Air Cops may be thinking of protecting such machines from colliding with high-flying rooves unadorned with flashy red lights. It may indeed be buried somewhere in the rule-book that such a use is mandatory for launching sites whether Old Musty has read those clauses or not.

      They do, after all, also like to have red lights on electricity pylons, large radio antennae and other objects that reach to the kies they so lovingly control.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: FAA -- Environmental Champions?

        " SpaceX is large, flat and unobstructed enough "

        Large, yes. Flat-ish certainly

        I'm not sure I'd want to put a GA craft down on wetland/swamp though. They don't generally fare well and nor do the occupants

  3. eldel

    The most feared words you can hear

    I'm from the government and I'm here to help you.

    The FAA have an 'interesting' view of where their authority stretches to - probably because many (most??) airports in the states have been in receipt of grants for infrastructure improvements. The rider that comes with the grant is that it gives the FAA a huge amount of say in the ongoing activities at the airport. This is often a good thing when local governments try to sell off a local airport to generate money and find that they can't. For subjective values of 'good' of course.

    I rather suspect that attitude is being shown here despite this not being an FAA funded operation.

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: The most feared words you can hear

      > The FAA have an 'interesting' view of where their authority stretches to

      I would suspect that the FAAs mandate covers manufacturing facilities for covered vehicles as well. e.g aircraft manufacturing plants.

      If an integration facility is considered part of the manufacturing pipeline then it would be under FAA regulation also.

    2. teknopaul Silver badge

      Re: The most feared words you can hear

      government selling things off rarely makes sense it's always dodgy dealing selling cheap to a friend who makes a packet. The government never needs to for capital, govt is is everyone else's credit line. The only reason for a government to sell is because there is good reason to suspect that the private sector will run it better. Often they run it badly, at higher profits and that is a crying shame. To buy it back you have to pay the higher rate for a poorer service.

      selling a business like airports is one thing selling the property underneath is another.

      Governments should _never_ sell property, the only justification for that is that there isn't enough property in the market. Normally there is but its not perfectly distributed.

      If there is an airport on the land that is functioning there is no waste and no need to sell.

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Pirate

    Nice buildings you got here...

    Be a shame if anything were to happen to them, right?

  5. Matthew "The Worst Writer on the Internet" Saroff

    Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

    Seriously, the brazenness of Musk's lawbreaking boggles the mind.

    From PayPal (acting as a bank while ignoring bank regulations), to Tesla (selling non existent product and overselling capabilities + stock manipulation + labor law violations), to Solar City (Securities fraud, etc), to the Boring Company (promising capabilities are simply not possible), it appears his super-power is, "Regulatory Arbitrage" (i.e. crime).

    1. BOFH in Training

      Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

      Don't agree.

      Simply cos without Elon, you will not have the FAA regulations being dragged into the 21st century and we will still be stuck with the giants from last century still sending up overpriced rockets occasionally only.

      On balance, I think Elon is still a net positive for humanity, even with his occasional craziness.

      1. NeilT

        Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

        Nope there are plenty more who don't give a crap about the environment and want incumbents to give us third rate products for twice the price.

        Not alone at all....

      2. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

        What's changed sufficiently to suggest that FAA regulations are now overbearing? Does rocket fuel make less of a bang when it explodes? Do light aircraft now bounce harmlessly off tall unmarked towers? Is the environment at less of a risk? Are billionaires more entitled to ride roughshod over regulation these days?

        The idiotic thing about Musk is that he picks unnecessary fights, or stages unnecessary stunts, or makes impetuous but incorrect decisions. All he's doing is risking being closed down.

        1. Dennis in Alaska

          Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

          Yes, many things are overbearing, and many things have changed since the regulations were written and instituted. Example: the exclusion zone of the restricted airspace was designed to account for a worst case scenario of a Saturn V rocket, not the smaller Falcon 9 rocket. Size and volume do matter, regardless of what lies you've been telling your wife! Secondly the tall "unmarked" tower under construction is hardly a danger as I'm sure it will be adequately lit and visible within the restricted airspace it occupies. And will be annotated on aviation charts as soon as they're updated. Any aircraft bouncing off of it will be the sole fault of the pilot, not the folks assembling a rocket adjacent to the tower. Taller, thinner and less noticeable towers go up around the world every day and there hasn't been a rash of aircraft bouncing into them, has there? Are billionaires riding roughshod, or are unelected beurocrats running roughshod over the folks creating the jobs and tax-bases that fund their tyranny? Most of us are little affected by these regulatory agencies, but the fact is, more tan a few of these burdensome regulations do not help the environment, citizenry, or whatever they were intended to protect, many are regulations for regulations sake to justify the theft of tax-payer dollars or to carve out some niche for a different special interest that may or may not be worthwhile!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

            And as the article makes clear, the tower is specifically not 500 feet tall. 500 feet and above is FAA airspace. For the same reason, onshore wind turbines in the USA are almost always under 500 feet tall.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

              Regardless of that, it's generally seen as a good idea to put a nav lihght on anything taller than 100 feet

              The radio towers ones at one place I worked were 110 feet high. The third time the local airforce guys knocked the nav lights off the top we told them they'd have to start fixing the things themselves.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

      Hey! glad the short seller brigade is represented here on ye olde Reg. Sadly while the vitriol in your comment is fitting for the forums, it lacks the substance for an actual article, so here it shall remain.

      You may get your wish though, but is seems like a long shot as Texans have and continue to do MUCH worse and remain free men.

      Your last part is wrong though, he's not a super-villan, just a Hank Scorpio esque run of the mill Bond type. Only with rockets instead of death rays. Crime isn't a superpower, it's at best a occpation and at worst a dabblers hobby.

      He can drop a several ton block of concrete anywhere on earth though, and probably at a high velocity and reasonable accuracy though. That's gotta count for something.

    3. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

      On the whole Musk has delivered far more than any other individual since Thomas Edison. Sure, some of his promises are over optimistic (he now admits that "self-driving cars are hard"). He's also learned that the stock market isn't a force for good, its a casino that will destroy you if there's money to be made from it. He might be ungodly wealthy -- on paper -- but he doesn't live like royalty, he's just interested in making stuff. He's usually right about regulations as well -- a launch was aborted unnecessarily because an errant light plane had strayed into a huge TFA, 1950's technology and mindset colliding with 21st century thinking. Things need to be tidied up.

      As for labor law violations, I doubt it. SpaceX has a startup culture which means that the work is likely to be interesting, exciting even, but at the same time you're get worked to death unless you're careful. Its a tradeoff and anyone getting involved with this sort of company who expects a generic 'job' is likely to have a rude awakening (assuming they get hired in the first place).

      Incidentally, I'm not a Musk groupie.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

        On the whole Musk has delivered far more than any other individual since Thomas Edison. Sure, some of his promises are over optimistic (he now admits that "self-driving cars are hard").

        That's.. a bit optimistic. See also-

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_EV1

        The General Motors EV1 was an electric car produced and leased by General Motors from 1996 to 1999.[6] It was the first ever mass-produced and purpose-designed electric vehicle of the modern era from a major automaker..

        But for some reason, Tesla's now worth more than GM, despite delivering far more vehicles. Plus GM delivered their Volt. Tesla delivered it's Model S two years later. Since then, Musk has also revolutionised mass transit by having drivers drive 3 passengers @30mph through a drainpipe under Vegas. Also promised a faster version having 600mph pods flying along on a cushion of air.. In a near vacuum tube. Even thoug h none of that's been delivered, he's confident he can deliver shipping containers on EV sleds as well.

        Oh, and there's the Tesla Semi, the Cyberduck, the Roadster Mk2, Cyberquad or just the solar tiles he's currently been in court over.

        But basically nothing original, and very little delivered as promised.

        1. Scott K

          Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

          It's his charging network that sells the cars 45 minutes to get 300 odd miles mostly and spaced close enough together (except Cornwall!) That's why people bought into it as it becomes practical over say the Nissan leaf which is short distance over night charge stuff.

        2. Def Silver badge

          Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

          A few points:

          1) The EV1 was only ever available through leasing plans, and when the program was terminated (because GM considered electric cars unprofitable) all cars were recalled.

          2) The Volt is a hybrid vehicle with an all electric range of about 61km. The first Model S had a range of 335km (over twice that of late-model EV1s).

          3) By October 2018, eight years since its launch, the Volt has sold 177000 units worldwide. The Tesla Model S launched three years later, and had sold 250000 vehicles worldwide by the same date.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

            1) The EV1 was only ever available through leasing plans, and when the program was terminated (because GM considered electric cars unprofitable) all cars were recalled.

            Yup. Tesla discovered much the same thing, ie it loses money with every car 'sold'. Quotes because a lot of the sales would be lease deals. Sometimes leased from Tesla, which means when the lease expires, Tesla's left with a 3yr old vehicle with very little residual value. Of course other companies like BMW, Mercedes, VAG also sell vehicles to their leasing arms, which conveniently sell bonds to the ECB.

            But Tesla clings to pseudo profitability by magicing up regulatory credits, that don't seem to correlate with vehicles sold. Theory goes evil ICE manufacturers need to buy virtue tokens/credits from Tesla.. Unless they're building their own EVs, in which case they don't need Teslas. Which are supposed to be based on EV's produced. Sales of Teslas have been falling. Oh dear.

            2) The Volt is a hybrid vehicle with an all electric range of about 61km. The first Model S had a range of 335km (over twice that of late-model EV1s).

            Yup. Hybrids make a lot more sense. See also the dreaded Prius. Of course those were nothing new, eg WW2 Germany had hybrid tanks with ICE powering motors for the tracks.

            And if you want to go back even further, the good'ol Electrobat-

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrobat

            Their effort was patented on August 31, 1894. Built like a small version of a battery streetcar, it was a slow, heavy, impractical vehicle with steel tires to support the 1,600 pound immense weight of its large lead battery.

            So Tesla may have made some improvements in range & speed, or more correctly, Panasonic did. So the Model S just has an immense weight of a 1,200lb battery. But still, nothing new or innovative from Musk. Other than perhaps financial engineering* and litigation.. Like the claim that he 'founded' Tesla..

            *I guess Tesla's copying the big automotive companies and dabbling in finance. Like announcing people can by 21st Century Electrobats with Bitcoin, and Tesla's invested over $1bn in virtual fiats.. Which proved handy when the value of Bitcoin jumped on the news, and gave Tesla a much needed currency gain to flesh out it's P&L. But then more tweets, and the value of that $1bn may now be a lot less, and the next quarter's financials will have more red ink to deal with.

            1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

              Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

              Instead of the Electrobat, you could have mentioned the first car to go over 100 km/h, "la Jamais Contente", in 1899...

    4. GraXXoR

      Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

      IMO, I think we have to take the rough with the smooth, as it were...

      I think Elon is one of those guys we have to tolerate because of the sheer positive impact his lot are having on reducing the cost of access to space.

      Unlike Beardy Branson and Baldy Bezos, who are basically providing toys for their rich pals (sure, with obvious trickle down tech as per any cutting edge endeavour), Elon's efforts are aimed at getting into orbital space and even interplanetary space in as practical a way as possible and his work provides rather more *direct* technical benefits, arguably to humankind as a whole.

      His efforts in the electrical car sphere, while not perfect, have also pushed the envelope in terms of battery tech, automation and production costs

      Arguably, his most important contribution is merely changing our perception wrt internal combustion engines and showing that -while we are not there yet- there are alternatives to petrol.

      So I'd respecfully say that while I'm sure you are not the only one who would like to see him frogmarched out of his office in handcuffs (perhaps dare I say it, due to a spot of green-eyed envy of his wealth?) it would likely be detrimental to the advancement of pioneering, balls-to-the-wall engineering.

    5. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

      How about the Tesla site in Germany where they have cut down hectares of forest without permission. Basically they started building a Tesla factory on the assumption that permission would be granted.

      Just how the hell they continue to get away with this behaviour is beyond me.

      1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

        You are stretching it.

        It is legal to do what they are doing in the wood plantation (monoculture of fast growing trees for papermills), it is not a cowboy approach as you suggested.

      2. hoola Silver badge

        Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

        I don't know why there are down-votes.

        https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tesla-gigafactory-germany-idUSKBN20A0KK

        This is exactly what they have done.

        They started work at their own risk before planning permission was granted.

        1. Def Silver badge

          Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

          "The court ruling, by the higher administrative court of the states of Berlin and Brandenburg, comes after the state environmental office gave a green light to clear 92 hectares of forest for the plant."

          Not exactly without permission. They were given the green light to clear the forest, despite not having planning permission for the factory.

          I can see how the court would want to limit damage done on the off chance that panning permission wasn't given, but the only risk to Tesla was financial expenditure to clear a site that might turn out to be unusable.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Am I the Only One Who Wants to See Elon Frog-Marched Out of His Offices in Handcuffs?

      If you read the quotes, you can see that what SpaceX has done here is taken a financial risk that the tower will be OK.

      It's the same kind of approach as Tesla building its near-Berlin factory where it gets piecemeal approve but risks being stopped at the end.

      Although Musk is an orders-of-magnitude bullshitter, when you clear away the bullshit his companies try to solve hard engineering problems and want to move fast.

      Boring is a good example of the bullshit and engineering combination. The Loop video is complete fantasy, but the desire and investment in engineering effort to improve tunneling is very real. Musk had talked about liking tunnels for years before starting Boring.

  6. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    And yet

    He has planning permission from the local council

    Hmmm

    Something smells here..... maybe the FAA want a nice brown envelope too

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And yet

      Yeah, they got their envelope already, just not from SpaceX.

      Plenty of rich people wondering how they are going to close the 2-5 year lead SpaceX has on the competition. Slowing them down is the obvious choice.

    2. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: And yet

      "He has planning permission from the local council"

      We're talking about Texas which -- outside of Travis County (Austin) -- is notoriously lacking in meddlesome regulation of just about everything. At least as long as you are the right sort of person. Being white and wealthy goes a long way toward making you the right sort of person. Bringing jobs to the neighborhood helps a lot also.

      I doubt the local planning commission (if any) had any substantive objections to Musk's plans. If he even bothered to present them.

      Don't get me wrong. Texas is not that bad a place if you are roughly the right sort of person, can tolerate interminable 35C (95F) plus most days Summers, and don't get nervous around dimwits with firearms. I wouldn't want to live there, but there are much less attractive places in North America.

    3. LogicGate

      Re: And yet

      I suspect that the issue is the planned erection of a tall structure within a FAA regulated area intended for takeoff and landing of aerial vehicles. Try to erect a skyscraper within the glide slope of a runway, and the FAA will be similarly amused. Seeing that the SpaceX site is intended for vertical takeoff and landing only, it is quite possible that the FAA would ultimately have allowed for the erection, however, they might prefer to be consulted before handing out the approval, since otherwise question might be asked along the line of: "Why did the FAA not do something about the tall tower that the rocket flew into, it is a FAA apprived launch site after all?

  7. simonlb
    Stop

    "The current regulatory system is broken"

    Just like all your promises about autonomous driving cars 'next year' for the past 5 years at least, the hyperloop, electric truck convoys and other somesuch crap.

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: "The current regulatory system is broken"

      "electric truck convoys"

      Goal: Multiple load units using electricity originally generated by a single, large, more efficient generator compared to multiple small [1] diesels.

      Downsides: A convoy of trucks taking up either the passing lane on the highway or worse -- the ramp-side lane so you can't enter or leave.

      Idea: Remove the trucks from the public highway onto dedicated right-of-way.

      Solution: Both the original goal and the idea are already fulfilled using heavy-rail freight trains. Single large-diesel generator running at higher efficiency, dedicated trackage... Why are we reinventing this?

      Add-on: Keep the electric-truck idea around for the final mile from freight yard (rail or air) to customer, just not highway convoys.

      [1] "Small compared" to massive diesels on ships, trains, mining equipment, and midsize engines for construction, firefighting, etc.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: "The current regulatory system is broken"

        >heavy-rail freight trains. ..... Why are we reinventing this?

        Because trains are communist

      2. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: "The current regulatory system is broken"

        My guess has been that Musk's electric truck is targeted at transport from distribution centers to retail stores within a few hundred miles. That is to say, containers of Vietnamese TVs, and Korean PCs and Chinese pretty much everything arrive at Long Beach California by ship. Make their way across the US by train and eventually get broken down at huge warehouses built in repurposed corn fields in the middle of nowhere. From there, a delivery of the many different products needed to restock the retail stores are assembled into shipments delivered by (electric) truck.

        I could be way wrong. It's not like actually I know anything about this other than that the container terminal in Long Beach (Wilmington actually) exists and that some of those distribution centers also exist. But it seems to me to make sense -- if the economics work. If they don't Musk presumably won't sell a lot of trucks.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: "The current regulatory system is broken"

          "My guess has been that Musk's electric truck is targeted at transport from distribution centers to retail stores within a few hundred miles. "

          Or less

          People need to famliarise themselves with the differencves between "Haulage" and "Drayage"

          Electric vehicles are a huge win on the latter part, just like electric aircraft will be a win on puddlejumping, but not necessarily for longhail

      3. marcellothearcane

        Re: "The current regulatory system is broken"

        The last mile is hard. Very few places that you want large things delivered to have a train station.

        The cost for loading a lorry to take things to a train station, the first lorry journey, unloading the lorry, loading the train, the train journey, unloading the train, loading a second lorry to take the things to the destination, that lorry journey, then unloading that lorry is a lot less efficient and cost effective than the alternative all-the-way journey.

        1. DJO Silver badge

          Re: "The current regulatory system is broken"

          ...loading a lorry to take things to a train station, the first lorry journey, unloading the lorry, loading the train, the train journey, unloading the train...

          I know, if only there was some form of standard boxy thing that would fit in ships, trains & lorries.

    2. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: "The current regulatory system is broken"

      The problem with saying things are 50 years away is that they remain 50 years away, in 50 years time. One only needs to look at the Tokamak to know that.

      Musk putting crazy targets on things and throwing money at them - whether they work or not - facilitates iterative development and actually moves one towards that rolling goalpost of a target.

      If nothing else, I have admiration that here's someone with a ton of cash and ambition to do something with it. Gates has his vaccine programme (good), amongst others. Billionaires sitting on their cash is the worst possible outcome as they simply suck money out of the economy until death and taxes catch up.

      If you think the money can be spent better elsewhere; lobby your government to tax said people to allow that money to be directed elsewhere. (And cue the huge red tape and many, many cuts of the pie that are made in a bureaucratic outfit. See USSR for examples. Or the present day UK for that matter).

  8. Gene Cash Silver badge

    WTAF - this is bullshit

    The FAA is not a building approval agency. The only oversight they should have is if the thing is tall enough to interfere with flight and require lights.

    This is nowhere near the FAA's jurisdiction. It would be like the FCC prohibiting me from putting in a new driveway.

    For once I'm on Elon's usually whiny and overprivileged side.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WTAF - this is bullshit

      Yeah, the article touches on the one legit part of this, that aerospace companies are regulated because of WHAT they make. If it was a pig farm and he was building a slaughterhouse the FDA would be involved. They make things that fly, and that is kind of the FAAs thing.

      That said, if SpaceX wants to risk the cash, their assertion that the facility isn't making FAA certified craft might actually be a legal blind spot. The FAA has a history of claiming jurisdiction on things it's legal definition does not cover, like flying toys. The FDAs got a much broader scope of authority by comparison.

    2. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: WTAF - this is bullshit

      The FAA requires approval of any structure in the US taller than 200 (61m) feet above local ground level or near an airport. Musk's towers are more than twice that. Roughly the height of a 40 story building.

      Of course he should have asked for approval. Assuming that they aren't actually an air travel hazard of some sort, I imagine he'll get approval. Along possibly with a (well deserved) fine?

      1. Degats

        Re: WTAF - this is bullshit

        SpaceX have approval for the tower (including from the FAA regarding height, markers for aircraft etc), just not the approval to use it for more than sub-orbital testing/development.

        Based on the wording of the letter, SpaceX are going to be using the Integration Tower as a crane (to integrate the rocket) and it will not actually be involved with orbital launches themselves. The launch is all handled by the launch mount, not the tower.

        I do wonder if this is the FAA misinterpreting (deliberately or otherwise) what the tower is actually going to be used for in the near-term. If it turns out that the environmental report says that SpaceX can't use it for launches, that doesn't mean they can't keep on using it as a crane.

        Also worth noting that this letter is from *May*; who knows what the situation is now.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: WTAF - this is bullshit

          The FAA also like interfering.

          We had planning permission held up for years for a site on an airport business park in Texas (outside the airport boundary)

          Because we made underground fibre-laser testing equipment

          The FAA decided that LASER was a scary word and since we were near an airport we were obviously planning on building and using giant laser death rays.

          Mind you, we also had an export to Sweden where the customer rep was called "Pistol" which caused a visit from some US customs gentlemen with guns. Took some time to explain that writing "Mr Pistol" on the invoice wasn't actually a terrorist act.

  9. NeilT

    Well he could be trying to set up a rocket launch business in Germany......

    He can't be feeling as much frustration as he is over building his Tesla factory in Germany. Those guys don't have the word reasonable in their vocabulary. It is replaced with Comply in every case.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      The Germans have no word for fluffy. And their operas last for serveral days...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        There is also a problem with rocket launches from Germany.

        Sending them up is OK but if for some reason they come down in a nearby country people tend to get terribly upset.

  10. gecho

    Musk could shoot a starship into the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose any fanboys.

    1. JDPower666

      And he could cure cancer, AIDS and end poverty and not lose any haters either. Haters gonna hate, fanboys gonna fan.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Someone has to say it

    "Excuse me Mr Musk, is this your erection? Please remove it from public view before we do."

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Someone has to say it

      Is that a tower you are building or are you just pleased to see me? Asks FAA inspector from Musk

  12. ClarkMills

    Elon, move to China...

    ...based on the speed of the Tesla factory build and the quality of the cars coming out of there... you'd be on Mars by christmas. :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On Mars by Christmas

      ...or in a slave labour camp.

  13. TheBadja

    The correct title is Pedoman Musk. According to Musk, in South Africa Pedoman is a term of endearment.

  14. gandalfcn Silver badge

    Interestingly, on a planet far from here, I was superciliously advised on the 11th July that Musk and Branson were heroes for taking the first steps towards space travel. I was taken somewhat aback by this, so I asked the kiddies if they had ever heard of Sputnik, Gagarin, the Apollo programme etc. And you know what? I am still waiting for an answer.

    1. rag2

      Not forgetting Tereshkova, of course.

    2. FeepingCreature

      If you step out the door, then turn back and go back indoors, you do not then get credit for the journey someone else starts.

      We thought the US was taking the first steps towards space travel with Apollo. Then they cancelled NERVA.

      (No comment about the Soviet Union because we don't know what would have happened with their space program, or if it would have ever recovered from the failure of the N1. However, the Russians are certainly not currently on that journey. To be on a journey you have to make progress...)

  15. Alowe

    This is not neutral reporting so is somewhat fake news.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This coming from the same agency that roasted a few astronots during mercury and two shuttle explosions. Elon you better listen

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FAA Can Go Kick Rocks

    This is a local and state issue, not a federal issue. I'd tell the FAA where they can put their foot ...

  18. Jack Stanton

    FAA out of bounds

    Sounds like an inspector with his hand out and looking for a bribe. The FAA does not have jurisdiction over zoning or engineering. I could be wrong but it wouldn't be the first time.

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