SpaceX performed a momentous demonstration of its Starhopper spacecraft last August 27, 2019. However, it also affected residents near the test site near Boca Chica Village in South Texas, which prompted the space company to offer property buyouts in the area in preparation for more and future testing.
In August, the Starhopper spacecraft performed a flight hovering at 150 meters above the ground, as per approved circumstances from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The latest flight demonstration was also the highest so far out of the past three (four in total) flight demonstrations that Starhopper has made, which were all from SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas test site.
In preparation for each flight demonstration, SpaceX took on the responsibility of informing residents days prior through local police enforcement.
About ten minutes before the August 27 flight, locals were evacuated from the nearby Boca Chica Village in case there were any problems with the launch.
A message reportedly sent to Boca Chica residents near SpaceX’s facilities warned about the test, suggesting they go outside during the flight to “avoid or minimize injury” from broken windows in the event of an accident or explosion.
Fortunately, the demonstration had no reports about shattered windows or any injury from the test flight, which lasted a total of 57 seconds in the air before making a soft landing back on the Earth’s surface.
But that testing has also produced an unintentional 100-acre brush fire and even explosion warnings in the launching region, which lies nearby the tiny hamlet of Boca Chica, according to a news outlet.
As a form of compensation for any potential damages and health risks, SpaceX sent buyout offers to at least 10 households in the community — which has a predominantly elderly population of only about 20 people — saying the company is concerned about “increased disruption to Boca Chica residents and our commitment to complying with public health and safety guidelines,” according to the letter, which is written with SpaceX letterhead.
“We did not anticipate that local residents would experience significant disruption from our presence,” SpaceX explains of its reasoning to use Cameron County as a potential spaceport location.
”However, it has become clear that expansion of spaceflight activities, as well as compliance with Federal Aviation Administration and other public safety regulations, will make it increasingly more challenging to minimize disruption to residents of the village.”
Relatively, Starhopper is a prototype demonstration of SpaceX’s newly designed Raptor engines, which are intended to be used on a much larger spacecraft called the Starship.
The Starship, once finished, will stand 180 feet (55 meters) or half the height of the Statue of Liberty. Before that, meanwhile, SpaceX is well in development for two relatively smaller prototypes, which intends to demonstrate performance of the spacecraft for actual space flights.
One of which, named Starship Mk-1, is currently being developed in SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica. Thus, it can be expected that more testing will be done in the same area, which may incur more damages or harm to the residents living in the area.
Based on initial reports, Starship Mk-1 will use up to three or four of which to enable them to reach higher altitudes, and will most likely produce more power that can do more damage.
SpaceX is aiming for a test flight that gets 12 miles (20 kilometers) up in October, followed by an orbital attempt “shortly after that,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said late last month.
As a way to mitigate any unwanted scenarios from the testing, SpaceX is offering each household a fixed buyout price of three times the appraised property value, saying that it favors giving an identical deal to residents because it is “the fairest approach.” The letter, which is dated Thursday (September 12), adds that the offer is good for two weeks — or until September 26.
To anyone who will accept the offer, SpaceX also plans to give those residents exclusive access to more Starship development events, through “future private VIP launch viewing events that are unavailable to the public.”