A Quick Comparison That Shows How Far SpaceX Has Pushed The FAA In The Rio Grande Valley

Pablo De La Rosa
2 min readDec 9, 2021


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As I work to review more data on SpaceX and the environmental assessment process that’s happening right now, I just wanted to share this quick post.

There probably isn’t a way to show people in two minutes what’s happening with the SpaceX project at Boca Chica, but I think the following can give people a sense of scale and why some advocates have been critical of Starbase.

For those just tuning in, I’m from the Rio Grande Valley (both North and South of the border) and have been doing reporting for Texas Public Radio and NPR this year on politics, immigration, and the environment. You can follow my work on Twitter here.

On the left in the image above is the Falcon 9, the rocket that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) originally approved to be launched by SpaceX at Boca Chica, just outside of Brownsville, in the Rio Grande Valley.

It is most likely what local organizations and valley leaders saw when the idea was pitched to them years ago.

On the right is the Starship/Superheavy rocket that SpaceX is hoping to launch in January of 2022, pending a new Environmental Assessment (EA) by the FAA which is to be completed at the end of this month.

Critics of the EA process say that the FAA should have done a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this change — a process with much more oversight than the EA.

They also say some calculations in the EA misrepresent the impact that Starship/Superheavy will have on the environment. I’ve taken a look at some data from environmental advocates citing a blast wave calculation that is over a thousand times times more powerful than the Falcon — very different than what’s in the EA.

There’s also the question of how much more powerful an accidental explosion may be as the Starship/Superheavy will be carrying many times more fuel than what was planned for in the Falcon 9.

What impact this may have on the area is yet to be seen. I’ve taken a look at some projected data that shows significant impact even into South Padre Island.

SpaceX has also said they will build a 250-megawatt power plant on site — capable of generating enough power for 100,000 homes — desalination plant, and liquid natural gas plant.

Those elements were never included when the site was originally approved and represent major projects that have historically only received approval through a full review through an EIS.



Pablo De La Rosa

Pablo De La Rosa reports statewide with Texas Public Radio and nationally with NPR from the Texas-Mexico border, from where he originates.