A dispute over SpaceX facilities and access to a nearby Texas beach is once again before the courts.
The Sierra Club and the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of South Texas jointly appealed the 445th District Court’s decision on July 7 to dismiss a lawsuit regarding SpaceX’s testing of its next-generation Starship vehicle shutting down near the Boca Chica beach, the coalition said July 28.
In the dismissal, Judge Gloria Rincones argued there was “no private right of enforcement” regarding beach access, according to KRGV.com (opens in a new tab). The dismissal came following protests by callers that the beach closure violates the Texas state constitution, as well as the access rights of traditional groups.
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Sierra Club’s Brownsville organizer Emma Guevara said the call is happening because the beach is closed weekly to allow “a billionaire [to] launch deadly rockets near dwellings and wildlife.”
Citing a fireball that briefly and unexpectedly engulfed Starship during testing on July 12, Guevera said his family was “forced” to hear the noise, which “was launched without any warning to the public.”
None of the allegations have been proven in court, and the appeal does not name SpaceX among the entities sued. SpaceX also did not respond to a Space.com request for comment.
The Boca Chica beach in dispute is located near SpaceX’s Starbase facility, where the next-generation Starship vehicle is being developed. A Federal Aviation Administration review in June allowed development to proceed as long as SpaceX addresses 75 issues to mitigate environmental impact.
However, not everyone agrees. The Sierra Club, the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, and the nonprofit Save RGV [Rio Grande Valley] all participated in the lawsuit alleging that restricting beach access violates the Texas constitution.
The original lawsuit alleged that Boca Chica beach was closed for 196 hours, or about 8 days, in the first three months of 2022. The previous year, the beach had about 600 hours, or 25 equivalent days, of closures .
Even after the lawsuit was dismissed, local residents continued to protest the beach closures, including a July 14 unanimous vote by the Cameron County Commissioners Court to support SpaceX’s spacecraft development, according to Texas Public Radio. (opens in a new tab).
The Starship team is targeting the program’s first orbital flight later this year to support the program’s ambitious future plans, including landing NASA astronauts on the Moon and launching one of the astronaut missions private from the Polaris program.