It turns out that the recent FAA environmental impact statement that seemed to give a stamp of approval for the proposed SpaceX space port in south Texas is not the end of the regulatory process, but the end of the beginning. A Saturday story in the Brownsville Herald reminds us that the report has kicked off a 30 day review period after which the FAA can allow SpaceX to apply for a launch license to start work on the Brownsville area launch facility. And that in turn kicks off a 180 day process during which the FAA makes the decision whether or not to grant the required licensing and permits.
But even that is not the end of the regulatory hurdles that SpaceX must face before the first Falcon rocket roars into the skies over the Gulf of Mexico. The Longview News-Journal reports that a number of state and federal agencies must give their approval for various aspects of the space port before it becomes operational. For instance, the Texas Department of Transportation must give approval for the movement of utility lines.
Environment Texas still opposes the space port since it is close to a wild life reserve and a state park. SpaceX has already agreed to enact measures to minimize the impact the space port would have on the environment, “such as containing waste materials from the construction and enforcing a speed limit in the control center area.” Environment Texas is not impressed, however. Whether it is disposed to make trouble in the courts is an open question.
In the meantime Brownsville area residents are boundless in their enthusiasm for the SpaceX space port. The space port would not only create plenty of jobs in south Texas, an economically underdeveloped region, but would spur economic development. One local real estate owner is already dreaming of a retail plaza and a hotel to be built to service the influx of highly paid rocket scientists, not to mention the tourists which would flock to the community to watch rocket launches. Beyond the regulatory hurdles and environmentalists fears, the sky may be the limit for the SpaceX space port.