It seems that SpaceX’s new starship launch tower is actually unapproved. This means that its in danger of being torn down if the company fails to get it approved by the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA. Elon Musk has always had a problem with regulators. He has criticized regulators many times for their strict and inflexible rules. It seems that the FAA had already warned SpaceX two months ago.
The FAA warned SpaceX two months ago that their work on a starship launch tower was of as then still unapproved. They should have waited for an environmental review of the facility in Boca Chica, Texas before they even started building the tower. This means that if the environmental review recommends taking down the tower, all of SpaceX’s work will be for naught. According to an FAA spokesperson “The company is building the tower at its own risk”.
The FAA already did an environmental assessment of the area back in 2014 but it seems that it doesn’t count as that review was only specific to SpaceX’s Falcon rockets. While SpaceX has already conducted multiple test flights of its Starship prototypes, they can’t take them to the next step if they don’t get approval from the FAA. Although the company says that they are pushing for a July launch, we have yet to receive any news of this timeline being followed.
The flight’s plan was revealed back in May which detailed that the prototype starship would launch from the Texas facility and land somewhere off the coast of Hawaii. After the FAA insisted on an environmental review, SpaceX told them at the time that the launch tower in Boca Chica shouldn’t be part of the review. According to them, the company “only intends to use the integration tower for production, research, and development purposes and not for FAA-licensed or -permitted launches”.
However, the FAA thinks otherwise. According to Daniel Murray, FAA safety authorization division manager “However, SpaceX’s project description in the administrative draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment provided to the FAA on May 5, 2021, indicates otherwise”. The FAA indicated that the “480-foot-tall integration tower is substantially taller than the water tower and lightning towers assessed in the 2014 [environmental review]”.
A lot of work on the tower has already been done so it would be a shame if someone ordered SpaceX to tear it down.