SpaceX, Boeing & Firefly File FCC Applications for Fall Flights

Starship hopper under construction at Boca Chica. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has applied for a temporary Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license to fly its Starship prototype to an altitude of 20 km (12.4 miles) from its Boca Chica test site in Texas.

The approval would be valid for hops from Oct. 11, 2020 to April 11, 2021. Starship prototypes have flown to an altitude of 150 meters from Boca Chica.

Boeing has filed for a FCC license for its second Starliner orbital flight test. The application covers a six-month period from Nov. 1, 2020 to May 1, 2021.

The uncrewed Starliner test is a repeat of a flight that went awry last December. The spacecraft failed to dock with the space station due to software and communications problems.

Firefly Aerospace has filed for approval for the maiden flight of its Firefly Alpha booster from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The approval would be valid from Nov. 21, 2020 until May 21, 2021.

Apha is designed to loft 1 metric ton into low Earth orbit and 630 kg into a 500 km sun synchronous orbit at a dedicated mission cost of $15 million.

Dispute Erupts Over SpaceX’s Boca Chica Test Facility

Elon Musk (center) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground on a new launch complex. (Credit: Texas Governor’s Office)

A dispute has erupted between several environmental groups and the federal government over the impact of SpaceX’s test operations at Boca Chica Beach in south Texas.

The issue: the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved SpaceX’s plan to use the coastal site for launching its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets up to 12 times per year.

However, Elon Musk’s company has instead been using its facilities to develop and flight test its larger Starship and Super Heavy boosters. The resulting impacts have been much greater than anticipated under the original proposal, environmental groups argue.

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SpaceX Looks to Build a Resort at Boca Chica

Credit: STARSHIP CAM

Having driven out most residents of Boca Chica Village, SpaceX is now looking to develop a resort adjacent to its Starship launch and test facility in Texas.

“Boca Chica Village is our latest launch site dedicated to Starship, our next generation launch vehicle. SpaceX is committed to developing this town into a 21st century Spaceport. We are looking for a talented Resort Development Manager to oversee the development of SpaceX’s first resort from inception to completion,” the advertisement said. 

The announcement is below.

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SpaceX Conducts Starship Static Fire, Plans 150-meter Hop

SpaceX conducted a successful static fire on its Starship vehicle at its south Texas test site on Thursday, paving the way for an 150-meter hop as early as Monday.

Cameron County has issued the following notice for the closing of Boca Chica Beach and Highway 4.

TEMP. CLOSURE DATETIME OF CLOSURECURRENT BEACH STATUS
Primary DateAugust 2, 20208:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.Closure Scheduled
Backup DateAugust 3, 20208:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.Closure Scheduled
Backup DateAugust 4, 20208:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.Closure Scheduled

SpaceX’s Starship Survives Cryogenic Pressurization Test

The fourth time was a charm for SpaceX’s Starship.

The fourth version of the space vehicle passed a cryogenic pressurization test that had destroyed three previous versions. Liquid nitrogen was used to test whether the vehicle could hold cryogenic propellants at pressure.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the successful test paves the way for the installation of a single Raptor engine. A static fire of the engine could come as early as this week, he said.

If that test is successful, engineers will attempt to fly the reusable vehicle to 150 meters above SpaceX’s test site near Boca Chica Beach in southern Texas.

Musk said the next version of Starship, SN5, will be fitted out with three Raptor engines to conduct higher flight tests.

SpaceX Seeks FCC Approval to Fly Starship to 20 Km

Starship on the moon. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has submitted an application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for communications frequencies to fly its Starship vehicle to an altitude of 20 km (12.4 miles) at its Boca Chica Beach facility in Texas.

The approval would allow for communications between the vehicle and the ground. The proposed six-month time frame for the flight is from March 16 to Sept. 16, 2020.

Starship is a prototype of an orbital vehicle that Elon Musk’s company is developing for missions in Earth orbit and to the moon and Mars. SpaceX also hopes to use it for rapid point-to-point transportation between distant cities on earth.

SpaceX Says Destroyed Starship Wasn’t Going to Fly Anyway

SpaceX said the Starship Mk1 vehicle that exploded at its Boca Chica Beach test facility on Wednesday wasn’t going to fly, despite what company Founder Elon Musk had promised during a webcast in September.

“The decision had already been made to not fly this test article and the team is focused on the Mk3 builds, which are designed for orbit,”  the company said in a statement.

The rocket, constructed out of stainless steel, literally blew its top while it was undergoing a pressurization test.

“The purpose of today’s test was to pressurize systems to the max, so the outcome was not completely unexpected,” SpaceX said. “There were no injuries, nor is this a serious setback.”

During a webcast from Boca Chica on Sept. 28, Musk stood in front of the vehicle and said it it would fly to 65,000 (19.8 km) within a month or two. He also said he hoped an upgraded variant of Starship would make an orbital flight within six months.

The SpaceX founder also talked about rapid iteration of the vehicle. Starships are being developed at Boca Chica and a site in Florida.

SpaceX is developing Starship for missions to Earth orbit, the moon and Mars. Musk has also pitched the spacecraft as a civilian transport for rapid point to point travel between distant locations on Earth.

For space missions, Starship will be teamed with a first-stage booster known as the Super Heavy.

Elon Musk to Provide Starship Update on Saturday as NASA Administrator Gives a Bronx Cheer

UPDATE: The presentation will be at around 8 p.m. EDT tonight. It will be webcast at www.spacex.com/webcast.

If you had plans for Saturday night, you might want to change them.

SpaceX Founder Elon Musk will provide an update on the progress of the Starship Mk1 vehicle live from the company’s test site at Boca Chica Beach in Texas.

Musk tweeted the presentation will start at 6 or 7 p.m. CDT (7 or 8 p.m. EDT).. There are reportedly plans to webcast the event, most likely via the SpaceX website (www.spacex.com). However, those details have not been confirmed.

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Boca Chica Homeowners Scoff at SpaceX’s Low-ball Offers

Starhopper aborts a hop attempt at Boca Chica. (Credit: SpaceX webcast screen shot)

The Valley Star reports that SpaceX’s offer to buy out a group of homeowners near its Texas test site at Boca Chica Beach is not going over very well with everyone.

Although the Hawthorne, Calif.-based rocket company, in a letter dated Sept. 12 and sent via FedEx, is offering the Heatons three times the appraised value of their home, they say the offer isn’t close to what they’d need to sell. The appraisal conducted by SpaceX is several thousand dollars less than an appraisal the Heatons got through their bank five years ago, Terry said.

“I sent them an email the day after we got this letter, not being sarcastic or anything else,” he said. “I just told them the facts, that (their) appraisal is extremely low.”

SpaceX said the offers are not negotiable and gave the homeowners two weeks from the date of the letter to respond.

“It’s just big money bullying little people,” Terry said. “That’s really what it is.”

SpaceX Files for Permit to Fly Starship at Boca Chica

Super Heavy Starship (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for authority to fly its Starship vehicle to 22.5 km (14 miles/73,819 ft) from its test site at Boca Chica Beach in Texas.

The special temporary authority “is necessary to authorize Starship suborbital test vehicle communications for SpaceX Mission 1569 from the Boca Chica launch pad, and the experimental recovery following the suborbital launch.

“Recovery is limited to 2 functions: (1) prelaunch checkout test of the TC uplink from the ground station at Boca Chica (less than five minutes in duration) and (2) experimental uplink testing from the ground station at Boca Chica during descent,” the application stated.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will provide an update on plans for Starship and the Super Heavy rocket on Sept. 28 at the Boca Chica site.

SpaceX Aborts 150-meter Starhopper Flight

The clocked ticked down to zero, but when it came to go, SpaceX’s Starhopper vehicle failed to lift off from its launch pad at Boca Chica Beach in Texas.

After the last-second abort, Elon Musk’s rocket company scrubbed plans to fly the Raptor engine equipped vehicle to 150 meters (492 ft). SpaceX said it could try again as early as Tuesday.

It would have been the second flight test for Starhopper. The vehicle flew to about 20 meters altitude on July 25.

Starhopper is a test vehicle to develop technologies for SpaceX’s planned SuperHeavy Starship — a fully-reusable rocket and spacecraft system designed for human trips to the moon and Mars.

A second Starhopper is being built in Florida for testing there.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave permission for a flight to only 150 meters (492 ft) instead of the 200 meters (656 ft) that SpaceX requested. It also raised the liability insurance requirement for the flight from $30 million to $100 million.

Residents of nearby Boca Chica Village have been told to stay outside during the test in case an “over pressure event” (i.e., explosion) breaks windows in their homes.