Pablo De La Rosa is a freelance journalist, reporting statewide for Texas Public Radio and nationally for NPR.

Starship may launch in the Rio Grande Valley on Monday, environmentalists allege leaked SpaceX emails may show “FAA coordination”

Starship Super Heavy Booster
Starship Super Heavy Booster / Used with permission

Starbase may launch on Monday

My colleague Gaige Davila at Texas Public Radio reported the story on Friday that, with just minutes left in the workday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it had finally granted SpaceX the license and final go-ahead that it needed to perform an orbital launch at Starbase in the Rio Grande Valley.

Just two minutes after the FAA’s announcement, SpaceX posted on Twitter that it intends to launch Starship on Monday. The timing of those announcements and the conversations in internal emails obtained by TPR are causing environmentalists to question whether there was coordination between the space startup and the federal agency, whose job it is to regulate it, in order to cut off any possibility of lawsuits.

Leaked internal emails show SpaceX discussion on “lawsuits from environmentalist groups”

On Friday, an anonymous source leaked internal emails to Davila. Texas Public Radio is now reporting that environmentalists allege that the conversations included in those emails may show coordination between SpaceX and the FAA in order to time the announcements in a way that would prevent any lawsuits from being filed in time to delay the launch.

From Texas Public Radio:

SpaceX VP of Vehicle Engineering Mark Juncosa wrote to employees in an email last week that the company was expecting the FAA would receive lawsuits from environmentalist groups that would potentially ground Starship from launching.

In another email, Juncosa said the initial plan to have a “launch rehearsal” on April 17 was scrapped in favor of going forward with the orbital launch, which was supposed to happen later in the week.

This means that not only were the announcements made right before the courts closed on Friday, but that the orbital launch, which was originally supposed to happen a week after a dress rehearsal, was moved up to first thing this Monday morning.

This effectively means that environmental advocacy groups may not have time to file any court motions to delay the orbital launch set to happen early next week.

For more information on the launch on Monday and more details on the leaked emails, you can read the full story on Texas Public Radio here: FAA issues long-awaited launch license to SpaceX’s South Texas Starship launch

“The most powerful rocket blast in history” is concerning the local community

There has been plenty of local pushback to Starbase on Boca Chica from local communities from the beginning of the project. Criticisms have included worries as far-ranging as gentrification and destruction of the surrounding protected habitat.

In January, the Port Isabel South Padre press reported that there are local concerns about damage to historical buildings in the area from the rocket blasts.

From the Port Isabel South Padre Press article:

This launch is planned to be the largest in history and as such will have some impact on the Brownsville, Port Isabel and South Padre Island area. Launches of this sort are not worry-free, however.

During a test launch earlier this year, there was an explosion that was so powerful it shook the lighthouse in Port Isabel, raising concerns about damage to the structure and other historic buildings in the area.

And in September of last year, an event which SpaceX called a “grass fire” destroyed over 68 acres of protected land.

However, some members of the local business community and city leadership continue to support SpaceX and are eager for the launch to happen. In January, Brownsville City Commissioner for District 2 Jessica Tetreau, who is currently running for mayor of Brownsville, tweeted that she hoped the blast would occur during Charro Days, the largest annual celebration in the City.


Pablo De La Rosa reports on immigration, border communities, preserving democracy, and Latin America for Texas Public Radio and NPR from the Texas-Mexico border, where he grew up. He’s the host of the daily Spanish newscast TPR Noticias Al Día and a regular contributor at The Border Chronicle.

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