SpaceX will be allowed to intervene in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups against the federal government. Permission was granted by a US court on Wednesday in regards to a lawsuit that challenges the government’s approvals for SpaceX’s Starship launches near a national wildlife refuge in Texas. The Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations filed the lawsuit in May, alleging that the government did not adequately consider the environmental impact of SpaceX’s Starship rocket program.
The lawsuit was prompted by Starship’s first test launch that resulted in the vehicle exploding over the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion caused a brush fire and sent debris, including reinforced concrete and metal shrapnel, into the Lower Rio Grand Valley National Wildlife Refuge, according to the lawsuit, which argues that SpaceX’s operations have negative consequences for endangered species such as ocelots and the habitat of migratory birds. (via Reuters)
SpaceX has claimed that the test launch was a qualified success and will provide valuable data. The company had previously sought permission to intervene in the lawsuit, asserting its “direct and substantial” economic interest in the case.
The environmental groups argue that the FAA’s approvals violated federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, by failing to adequately consider the potential harms. They are requesting the court to revoke the launch approvals until the FAA conducts a comprehensive environmental impact study. Both the FAA and SpaceX have denied most of the allegations made by the environmental groups in their court filings.
The case, known as Center for Biological Diversity et al. v. Federal Aviation Administration et al., is currently being heard in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.