back to article Eco warriors sue FAA over Starship fallout, claim watchdog is lost in space

A group of environmental nonprofits and an indigenous nation have sued America's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over the fallout from SpaceX's failed Starship launch last month. The plaintiffs claim the regulator violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by allowing SpaceX to even attempt to get Starship off …

  1. _Elvi_

    Foolish decisions ... From foolish "Leaders"

    .. Shows what happens when the "Führer" of Texas is more concerned in snubbing California, touting his fiefdom is "bigger and better and t-rumpier", than listening to his own State Parks staff about the launch fallout.

    Kemp's Ridley are very gentle and seriously endangered and unfortunately, they and their freshly laid eggs are hunted for food just a mile to the south in Mexican waters..

    I've had the rare pleasure in participating in a beach clean up, and locating Kemp's eggs to be spirited away for hatching in a safe and controlled environment. A very amazing vacation I will remember forever.

    I embrace space exploration.

    I recoil from one-upmanship, short sightedness and misguided hero worship. All apply here.

  2. John Robson Silver badge

    Oh dear....

    A) The FAA haven't grounded anything - there was only ever one launch license.

    B) Musk (optimistically) said that from a rocket/stage zero perspective they'd be ready in 6-8 weeks - acknowledging that licenses were likely to be longer than that.

    1. CowHorseFrog

      Re: Oh dear....

      Oh yes i remember 6 - 8 months and FSD would also be done.

  3. Vulch

    Parked car

    The car with damage was known to be well within the danger area, and had been deliberately left there as it was being used as a remote camera platform to cover the launch.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Parked car

      I kinda wonder how much that car could be sold for. Collectors are strange, and that one was owned by Boca Chica Girl herself, who's done a great job documenting the Misadventures of Musk. NASA Spaceflight's had a few more videos since showing that Starship had its own way of dealing with the paparazzi.

      Rest just seems to be the usual environmental shakedown (compensation, or consultancy for writing/approving environmental impact assessments). The world kinda lacks suitable launch sites, especially ITAR-suitable ones, and they're all going to offend someone, somewhere. Shame they don't show the same concern for environmental harm caused by off-shore 'renewables' development.

      1. MrDamage Silver badge

        Re: Parked car

        >> Shame they don't show the same concern for environmental harm caused by off-shore 'renewables' development.

        This is the same logic as "If xrays are so safe, why do the technicians have to go stand behind a safety screen?"

        1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge


          Well, x-rays are not safe. However, the harm is affected by the length and intensity of the exposure(s). The benefits of medical diagnostic x-rays outweigh the intentionally-limited exposures the doctors give us. I will happily have an x-ray taken if it's useful to the doctor (and have done so in the past. "Good news: your leg is not broken, it's just a bad sprain.")

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge

            Re: X-rays

            X rays are everywhere. "Mr. Sun" makes them. Flying at 30,000 feet exposes you to considerably more than living at sea level.

            When I was in the Navy on a nuclear sub, I could point a gamma radiation detector upwards while on the surface and easily get 20-30 counts per minute. While underway (reactor running), about the same pointing towards the reactor compartment (from that .location). But pointing straight up, it was ZERO.

            All of that solar radiation (X and gamma rays) was being shielded by >100 feet of water.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Parked car

        "seems to be the usual environmental shakedown

        As you pointed out, if it were REALLY about the environment, these people would care about windmills killing birds and off-shore windmill construction killing whales, both of which have been an issue recently. I saw a video online where a windmill smacked into a vulture circling around (probably because of OTHER dead birds on the ground) and the vulture dropped to the ground, only able to move half of its neck and its head. Nevermind all of the farmland being covered up by solar panels...

        It's really about manipulation, control, power, and money by attacking modern tech and great accomplishments, and not about saving whales or buzzards [especially not from "green" energy windmills].

        (I think their goal is WEF style socialism and CCP type control over everyone's life - and making us eat BUGS)

        1. CowHorseFrog

          Re: Parked car

          Yeh who needs a clean and healthy earth.

          Lets completely destroy the earth and cover it in one giant car park where we all eat fake astronaut food in plastic wrappers.

        2. localzuk Silver badge

          Re: Parked car

          Can always spot one of the "anti-green" posters on the web. Obsessively call modern wind turbines "windmills". Windmills are for milling grain into flour. They're made of stone, wood and cloth etc... They're usually hundreds of years old.

          Wind turbines generate electricity.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Parked car

            Obsessively call modern wind turbines "windmills"

            The fundamentals remain the same. They use wind energy to perform work. One milled grain, the other spins a motor. The basic operating principles are over 1,000yrs old, so it's by no means a modern idea. In fact the first ones were built in the late 1800s.

            Wind turbines generate electricity.



            YTD stats for UK windmills-

            minimum: 0.438 GW maximum: 17.444 GW average: 8.129 GW

            Back in the good'ol days, if there was no wind, there'd be no bread. People go hungry. Now, there's no electricity, industry stops and people go hungry. But that's why our ancestors obsoleted windmills and replaced them with something that was more reliable, dependable, cheaper and could perform more work. At least in space, solar winds and solar energy are rather more useful and dependable. Down here, other technology is far cheaper and productive. It's no suprise idiots like Dale Vince of 'Ecotricity' fame sponsors the anti-oil ecozealots though, because his lavish lifestyle depends on the subsidies we're forced to pay him. Strange the way socialists rapidly transform into capitalists when they discover the luxuries other people can buy them.

            1. localzuk Silver badge

              Re: Parked car

              Not overly sure why you've provided wind energy production stats in isolation...

              Nuclear energy from that same site: minimum: 2.061 GW maximum: 5.747 GW average: 4.239 GW

              So, on average, nuclear - the super reliable energy we are promoting a lot in the UK (and which costs significantly more to build), produces less than wind.

              Gas, CCGT: minimum: 1.424 GW maximum: 24.536 GW average: 10.782 GW

              So, on average wind is only just a little behind wind in average production. A few more wind farms built and it'll be on par.

              Back in the old days, no wind meant making flour manually, or using donkeys/horses instead to drive the grinding wheels. Not "no bread"... And just like that time, we have alternatives to wind now too. Its why the concept is often referred to our "energy mix".

              And subsidies for green? Not really. The estimates for the world-wide subsidies provided to the fossil fuel industry in 2022 hit $1tn for the first time. To put that in context. That's more than double the entire investment, both public and private, that was put into green technologies in the same period.

        3. blackcat Silver badge

          Re: Parked car

          The whole 'bird vs power generation' thing is really quite funny. The greens will bend themselves into pretzels to make the claim that power generation that doesn't involve big spinny things or focused beams of sun are more bird friendly than unmoving buildings.

          Basically 'birds like to fly into windows, fossil and nuclear power stations have windows, therefore bad'.

          They also site a 1982 incident where 3000 birds flew into the buildings of a nuclear power station over the span of 2 nights in Florida. The fact it was a nuclear power station has nothing to do with the fact the birds flew into it.

          The reality is that anything sticking up into the air that is man made is likely to have a bird fly into it. However if the structure is stationary they might be able to notice it avoid it. Bird and bats are not used to objects that are actively moving so don't know to keep away.

          The other argument is that cats kill more birds than turbines however cats kill little birds whereas the sorts of birds killed by turbines are usually on the endangered list and also have been known to kill cats. Starlings are not endangered. The largest bird my cats have ever dragged home was a pheasant.

          1. localzuk Silver badge

            Re: Parked car

            Far more animals die due to fossil fuels than wind ever will kill.

            Not because of windows. That's a dumb argument.

            But because of habitat destruction for mines. Pollution destroying other habitats and causing illness. Pollution causing climate change, and again, destroying habitats, wiping out entire species.

      3. CowHorseFrog

        Re: Parked car

        > The world kinda lacks suitable launch sites, especially ITAR-suitable ones, and they're all going to offend someone, somewhere.

        Says who ?

        Last i checked my water is clean and food is fine, all without the international space station or musk and his bullshite ?

        1. localzuk Silver badge

          Re: Parked car

          Then you need to read up more on what space technology has provided you. Your food is farmed using modern farming methods, that use satellites and technologies developed by NASA... Water is monitored by satellite, using technologies developed by NASA...

        2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Parked car

          Says who ?

          Pretty much everyone in the space industry? It's a bit like nuclear, so a business that neo-luddites don't understand, because it requires a working knowledge of physics. In order to Just Stop Gravity, you need to thrust hard against it. This requires energy, and lots of it. This is the reason we don't have wind or solar powered spaceships*, and why sailing ships became obsolete. So it's easier and cheaper to launch close to the equator, and use the Earth's rotation to help. Plus minor details like not having to launch over a populated neighbor and having a handy ocean to drop stuff into, if/when you need to hit DBRB to abort.

          Last i checked my water is clean and food is fine, all without the international space station or musk and his bullshite.

          I large parts of the world, neither is true. This includes parts of the developed west, eg Flint, Michigan. Providing water clean enough to wash rubbish for recycling or flush toilets is an expensive and energy intensive business. Especially as demands from both a growing population and business continue to put strain on supplies. And that gets worse if toxic materials from dumped solar panels leach into groundwater. Your food may also be contaminated, or just at risk from monoculture. That also suffers from competing demands, ie increased acreage dedicated to growing biofuels instead of food which leads to increased food prices. Or calls to ban fertilisers, because lower yields obviously increases food prices and reduces harvests. Or there are even demands to reduce CO2 levels, because lower CO2 again reduces yields, and increases water demands. And then of course there are the demands that people all go veggie, because vegetables being largely water and cellulose are easy to transport, and provide all the nutrients we need.. Except we can't digest cellulose. Livestock can, which is why we let them do the pre-processing.

          And then there's Peak <whatever>. In order to build our 'Net Zero' future and beyond, we'll need lots of raw materials and natural resources. So those 'rare' metals that aren't, or stuff like lithium. There is a finite amount of those down here on Earth. However, there's a carpton floating around just above our heads, so space experts are doing stuff like this-

          Due to arrive in 2029 and find out just what this massive, metallic asteroid is made from. And if that might be useful to humans that want to get off this rock. It's rather expensive to lift stuff like iron and nickel from Earth to orbit and beyond. It's much less expensive to get that stuff back from space or orbit to our surface though, unless you miss your landing spot and your insurers won't pay out. But space mining could be rather useful in future to supply all the resources we'll need to build millions of EVs, windmills etc and keep those running.

          Oh, and there's also food & water. Like if we're going to escape our gravity well, we'll need aqua and agriculture in space. This may include confused meal worms who discover they can 'fly' much earlier in their development cycle. Or it may include square pigs. Or we may discover just how large we could grow a sprout in zero gravity, and what would happen if we dropped it on Brussels. There have already been experiments to find out what happens to beer in space, thanks to our crazy Dutch cousins.

          The economics of space mining, industry and agriculture get interesting because they challenge assumptions regarding cost. The more we can do in space, the cheaper it gets, especially as energy is essentially free. Unlike down here in the gravity well, where idiotic politicians create policies that intentionally make energy more expensive. Then they wonder why we have inflation..

          *Yes, I know, we do have solar sails and panels which are rather useful in space.. but a lot less useful than nuclear power for creating energy down here. Wonder if Jeff Bezos the 3rd will build themselves a massive solar sailed super space yacht?

  4. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Didn't they complain

    about building work at the cape destroying valuable wildlife refuges.......... at which point they were bluntly told that if they were'nt launching rockets at the cape, it would have been drained and turned into another condo beachfront....

  5. vtcodger Silver badge

    False expectations

    Jeezum. Here El Twit Supemo moved his undertaking from California to Texas in order to get away from regulation. And the environmentalists turn up with a battalion of lawyers just because of dumping a bit of dust and a few itsy chunks of concrete on a few birds and aquatic reptiles. Obviously Texas is not the answer. I suspect we can look forward to Musk moving on to friendlier climes -- maybe Wyoming or Paraguay.

    1. localzuk Silver badge

      Re: False expectations

      We need animals to survive. We need biodiversity. Without a thriving biosphere, we won't have food.

      Kill off random species (as there are several endangered species in the area in question), and that has a knock on effect to both predator and prey species in their food chains. You can entirely destroy the ecology of an area with actions like this.

      So, proper environmental studies are a necessity.

  6. _Elvi_

    Blue Orgin

    .. bent a few noses when they "grabbed the land" for their SpacePort ( The land owners were well compensated, BTW )

    Van Horn is very happy with the attention and tourism dollars, and my launch watching was great. ( The Donuts at the truck stop were quite fresh, the coffee hot and the Hamburger after quite good.. But no fried egg on top :( )

    At the very most, some local cattle are awakened from their lazy slumber; but no endangered species threatened. The Texas Patrol cars love to block the highway, and breaks up the monotony of pulling over collage kids on their way to Big Bend or El Capitan..

    A pint of Lager to Mr: Bezos, for choosing wisely ,,

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Blue Orgin

      Can't really launch anything orbital class like Starship (or Falcon9) from there though as you'd risk dropping very large chunks of rocket on inhabited areas if . Not really a problem for a suborbital "straight up and down" joyride. There's basically no other good option within the (continental) US for SpaceX. You need somewhere free of and far away from human inhabitants, directly on the coast of the Atlantic or at least with a clear path to it and from there to hundreds of miles out with decent enough weather most of the year that you have a snowballs chance in hell of having a good enough weather launch window. If you can point to a better location that meets requirements be my guest.

      1. _Elvi_

        Re: Blue Orgin

        .. Blue Origin will launch in NASA designated launch spaces.. Like any good supplier to NASA would.

        and THAT is my exact point.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Great Bumbling Twit is endangered

    And I’m not talking birds.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You spelled Bezos wrong

    Eco warriors… right..

    These attempts at obstruction are bought and paid for by Bezos and other…interested parties. Cough Boeing cough.

    1. Spherical Cow

      Re: You spelled Bezos wrong

      You got some big proof to go with that big accusation?

  9. Gerlad Dreisewerd

    No big deal

    Launch 1 simply showed that the launched pad had deficiencies. Solution. Build a a launch barge, tow barge & rocket into international waters. Give the freeway salute to the FAA & the eco-loonies. Problem solved.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: No big deal

      SpaceX was working on that, turns out it's not that simple and they've sold the 2 oil rigs they had bought for the purpose.

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