SpaceX Warned Over Spacecraft Launch Violations

SpaceX's Starship prototype. Image credit: SpaceX

Local authorities in Texas warn Elon Musk’s SpaceX over repeated violations of state laws during the launches of spacecraft

SpaceX could be in hot water with a local district attorney concerning its launching of spacecraft in Southern Texas.

The district attorney of Cameron County, which encompasses Boca Chica Beach where SpaceX carries out its launches, has warned the firm of possible arrests and prosecution, CNN reported.

Local authorities are concerned SpaceX violated local laws when it shuts down public beaches for extended periods of time and using unlicensed security guards to ward people off public roads, when carrying out launches.

SpaceX's Starship prototype. Image credit: SpaceX
SpaceX’s Starship prototype. Image credit: SpaceX

Shrapnel debris

The launching of space vehicles such as Starship, which will eventually carry humans to Mars, causes frequent road closures and traffic jams.

This, coupled with the explosive rocket testing mishaps that has reportedly littered local beaches with shrapnel, have often rubbed local residents and environmental activists the wrong way CNN reported.

The district attorney of Cameron County, Luis Saenz, who is responsible for the Boca Chica Beach, area, is now reportedly warning SpaceX that its actions could make the company and, possibly, employees “subject to arrest and prosecution,” according to a 11 June letter obtained by CNN.

The contents of the letter were first revealed by local television station KRGV.

Illegal detention

District attorney Luis Saenz alleged that members of his staff, while investigating complaints from a resident about the behaviour of SpaceX’s private security personnel on 9 June, encountered a man wearing a “tactical bulletproof vest”.

This security guard “approached, stopped and detained” them for attempting to access a public roadway near SpaceX’s manufacturing facilities.

Even worse, Saenz’s letter states that the county had not authorised a road closure at the time, and his staff later found out the security guard who detained them was not licensed by the Texas Department of Public Safety, as is required by state law.

“This conduct is unacceptable,” the letter reads, adding that Saenz was further concerned by the fact that SpaceX responded to that incident and another, similar incident in early April by chocking up the incidents to an “overzealous security guard.”

Arrest and prosecution

“While Space-X is a valued member of our community, this does not authorise Space-X, its employees, staff, agents, and/or contractors to disregard Texas Law,” the letter reportedly states.

“Also, be advised, if this conduct were to happen again, not only could the individual Space-X employee/contractor/agent be subject to arrest and prosecution, but as a Texas Business Entity…Space-X could be prosecuted as well.”

SpaceX did not return CNN requests for comment.

The letter also revealed the complaints about the extent to which SpaceX has restricted access to Boca Chica Beach, which is one of the nearest beaches to the city of Brownsville and one of the last undeveloped stretches of coastline in the state.

According to CNN, SpaceX is only authorised to close the beaches for up to 300 hours per year for rocket testing and launches, as per its agreement with the US Federal Aviation Administration.

But just six months into 2021, the company has already shut down the beaches for about 385 hours, according to Saenz’s letter.