SpaceX rockets blew away local bird habitats after Elon Musk ‘misled’ NPS officials about expansion, NYT reports

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is at odds with environmental activists over its Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas.Rocket launches have disturbed the local ecosystem, including a migratory bird habitat.SpaceX “exploited the limitations” of government agencies to expand, The New York Times reported.

SpaceX is ruffling feathers with its complex in Southern Texas.

A Sunday report by The New York Times said operations at Starbase in Boca Chica — which includes a rocket launchpad and a production facility— have damaged the local environment.

The outlet reported that SpaceX’s operations have caused explosions, fires, leaks, and other issues at least 19 times since 2019. One rocket launch in 2023 ended in an explosion, which ignited 3.5 acres of a nearby state park.

The most recent incident occurred in June with the launch of Starship, which flew to space and back.

Although the flight was considered a success, it left behind trails of smeared egg yolk on the ground near the launch site.

SpaceX’s Starship launching from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, on June 6, 2024.

The complex neighbors public land like Boca Chica State Park and the area is near the migratory pathway of birds like Piping Plovers. The species is listed as “threatened” by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

A nonprofit group recorded nine bird nests in the area before June’s launch, but none remained intact.

“All 9 shorebird nests monitored following the rocket launch on June 6 were either missing eggs, had damaged eggs, or both,” a 2024 Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program report said.

“This damage is not consistent with any predator interactions in our experience,” the report added. “Additionally, the strong speed/force of projected debris and wet sand/mud was apparent both in the game camera photographs as well as on the face of the camera bodies themselves — one of which had its lens shattered by a concrete pebble.”

Elon Musk is the founder and CEO of Space X.

The launch sent debris across nearby landscapes and ignited a small fire. Metal sheets and insulation were also found among the debris.

The company’s environmental practices have caused friction with government agencies like the National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

However, the Federal Aviation Administration defended SpaceX in a statement to The Times.

“Blowing debris into state parks or national land is not what we prescribed, but the bottom line is no one got hurt, no one got injured,” an official said. “We certainly don’t want people to feel like they’re bulldozed. But it’s a really important operation that SpaceX is conducting down there. It is really important to our civilian space program.”

Gary Henry, a former SpaceX advisor on Pentagon launch programs, told the outlet that SpaceX is aware of the criticisms surrounding its environmental practices and plans to address them.

The outlet reported that SpaceX hired a consultant to track bird patterns, and its researchers “found little to no evidence” of changes to the local bird population.

SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft at Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas.

However, environmental officials have more grievances with SpaceX.

The Times reported that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk “exploited the limitations and competing missions of the various agencies” that could impose unfavorable regulations. The National Park Service and US Fish and Wildlife offices, which oversee natural and other resources, have “repeatedly” lost to larger agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration.

The outlet also reported that Musk has expanded SpaceX’s operations more than he initially promised officials. A former National Park Service official, Mark Spier, said SpaceX “misled” officials.

“They kept saying, ‘No, we are not going to do that, we are not going to do that,’ and then they came back and said, ‘Yes, we are,'” he said. “We were being misled.”

The focus around SpaceX and its effect on local environments has continued to gain traction. NASA confirmed in June that a large chunk of debris the size of a car hood from SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule crashed in North Carolina.

Representatives from SpaceX, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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