NASA Invites Comment on Initial Plans for Mars Sample Return Program

Lockheed Martin will lead development of the Mars Ascent Vehicle (pictured), cruise stage for the Mars Sample Retrieval Lander, and the Earth Entry System that will help return the first ever Martian rock samples to Earth. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is requesting public comment on the scope of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the agency’s proposed Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign. Comments will be accepted through the mail and online through Monday, May 16, 2022.

The agency also is hosting two virtual public meetings about the proposed program at 3 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, and 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 5, 2022, at:

https://jpl.webex.com/meet/msr

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Lockheed Martin Selected For Critical Elements Of NASA’s Mission To Bring Back First Ever Samples From Mars

Lockheed Martin will lead development of the Mars Ascent Vehicle (pictured), cruise stage for the Mars Sample Retrieval Lander, and the Earth Entry System that will help return the first ever Martian rock samples to Earth. (Credit: NASA)

DENVER, Feb. 15, 2022 (Lockheed Martin PR) – Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] was awarded three NASA contracts for key elements of the agency’s visionary Mars Sample Return program.

The first contract is for the cruise stage that will power and steer the Mars-bound journey of the lander that retrieves Martian rock and soil samples from the Perseverance Rover. For this $35 million award from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California (JPL), Lockheed Martin will produce the cruise stage and its comprehensive elements, including the solar arrays, structure, propulsion and thermal properties.

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Report: SpaceX’s Boca Chica Plans Face Serious Objections from FWS, NPS

Starship SN15 takes off on May 5, 2021. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

ESG Hound’s latest look SpaceX’s plan to launch Super Heavy/Starship boosters from its Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas suggests the entire effort might need to be scrapped. (The US Department of Interior Drops the Gauntlet on SpaceX and the FAA: SpaceX is headed for an EIS)

The problem: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Park Service do not agree that launching the world’s most powerful rocket will have a non-significant impact on federal and state-managed wildlife refuges and national monuments that surround the Boca Chica launch site. Without their sign off, ESG Hound says the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can’t approve the plan using an ongoing environmental assessment that it aims to complete by Jan. 31. A more complicated and lengthy environmental review would be required, resulting in years of delays.

Further, if SpaceX has viable alternatives for Super Heavy/Starship launches in Florida, the company might be required to abandon the Starbase site in Texas. Developing news facilities could result in significant delays to Super Heavy/Starship and the Human Landing System that SpaceX is building for NASA to return astronauts to the lunar surface.

Confused? Let’s review a little bit of history first.

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FWS Says SpaceX Boca Chica Operations Have Severely Impacted Wildlife Refuge, Criticizes FAA Environmental Assessment as Inadequate

Debris from a Starship MK1 pressure test explosion in November 2019 with arrows showing how the pieces were removed from the marshland. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX’s operations at its Boca Chica test site in Texas have severely impacted the adjacent Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and its wildlife due to rocket explosions, wildfires and excessive road and beach closings, according to a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Federation Aviation Administration (FAA).

“Frequent closures of the Refuge caused by SpaceX activities are already substantially impairing both the Refuge’s ability to adequately manage the Refuge and the public’s enjoyment of the Boca Chica Beach area for wildlife-dependent recreation. There are both ‘adverse’ and ‘severe’ impacts to Refuge public use, management, wildlife, and habitat from the SpaceX activities,” the letter said.

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Environment Engineer Says Assessment of SpaceX Boca Chica Expansion is Deceptive, Incomplete and Illegal

Starhopper aborts a hop attempt at Boca Chica. (Credit: SpaceX webcast screen shot)
  • Assessment authors accused of submitting false emissions numbers
  • Report leaves out entire structures and their environmental impacts
  • FAA accused of illegally fast tracking approval using less rigorous environmental assessment than required by law

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

An environmental engineer has raised serious questions about the completeness and appropriateness of a draft programmatic environmental assessment (PEA) that covers SpaceX’s major expansion of its Starbase rocket launch and test site in Boca Chica, Texas.

According to a 12-part series on the blog ESG Hound, the assessment that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released for public comment last month violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to evaluate all of the impact of the project, which sits amidst environmentally sensitive saltwater wetlands.

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FAA To Begin Environmental Review at SpaceX Texas Launch Site

Rendering of SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch complex. (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON (FAA PR) — SpaceX has informed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it plans to apply for licenses for suborbital and orbital launches of its Starship spacecraft powered by the Super Heavy rocket at its launch site in Boca Chica, Texas.

The proposed update to Starship/Super Heavy operations  falls outside of the scope of the existing final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision for the launch site and requires additional environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

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SpaceX Tells Boca Chica Residents: Sell Now or Else!

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

Vice reports that SpaceX gave a Friday deadline for two Boca Chica Village homeowners to sell their homes or Elon Musk’s launch provider would pursue “alternate approaches” to get them to vacate the settlement near the company’s south Texas spaceport.

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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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