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Second Starship test-flight receives mixed views from Cameron County citizens

SpaceX’s Saturday morning test flight of Starship Super Heavy ended in an explosion after separating the booster and spacecraft over Boca Chica Beach before falling into the Gulf of Mexico.

The 397-foot rocket, one of the most powerful created, is designed for interplanetary travel, aspiring to bring humanity to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

Several milestones happened during the launch, such as all 33 raptor engines on the Super Heavy Booster starting up successfully, six second-stage Raptor engines igniting before separating, and hitting an altitude of ~150 km, reaching outer space.

The spacecraft, which exploded due to the self-destruct system, lasted twice as long in flight at over 8 minutes, twice as much as its initial launch on April at four minutes.

“With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and this flight test will help us improve Starship’s reliability as SpaceX seeks to make life multi-planetary,” said SpaceX in an official statement. “The team at Starbase is already working on final preparations on the vehicles slated for use in Starship’s third flight test, with Ship and Booster static fires coming up next.”

However, Cameron County citizens remain divided by the impact of the aerospace company.

While crowds gathered to view the launch on both sides of the border, Cameron County residents awoke, confused at the shaking of the foundation of their homes.

Juan Velez, 71, woke up to his home shaking, believing there to be an earthquake. In a panic, he texted his family group chat, believing he was in danger.

“I turned on Channel 5 and they were saying that the rocket had taken off on time, and I figured out that was what I felt,” he wrote after. “But when you wake up to rumbling sound and the house [and] floor moving, you start panicking and figuring we’re gonna die.”

Bekah Hinojosa, founder of Another Gulf is Possible, released a joint press release with organizations condemning the latest launch and explosion.

“This is the second joint statement that organizations have worked on together,” she said, the last joint press release having statements from over 27 local organizations against Starship’s launch. “Some of these folks are environmental organizations that are concerned with the destruction of the wildlife refuge. One of the other organizations is the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe, the beach is sacred to them.”

For Hinojosa, pollutants such as dust from launch and spaceship rubble falling into the gulf concern the environmental well-being of Cameron County.

“We’ve seen SpaceX testing burn more than 70 acres of the wildlife refuge,” Hinojosa said. “We’ve seen people lose access to the beach that they’ve been going to for generations, where they fish.”

Another Gulf is Possible has written complaints to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), who stated on X, formerly Twitter, that they would launch an investigation over the failed mission of Saturday’s launch.

The FAA will oversee the SpaceX-led mishap investigation to ensure SpaceX complies with its FAA-approved mishap investigation plan and other regulatory requirements,” the agency wrote.

For other citizens, such as University of Texas Rio Grande Valley junior Arlette Lerma, witnessing the SpaceX launch is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“There [were] people outside of my neighborhood also watching the launch in front of their lawn,” she said, being woken up after the rocket launched past 8 am.

“I think it’s really awesome to see this happening in Brownsville because it’s something new,” said Lerma. “Me and my family are excited to be part of history.”

SpaceX is currently preparing for its third launch before Christmas, according to founder Elon Musk, that is if the FAA approves a launch permit after an investigation.

“Starship Flight 3 hardware should be ready to fly in 3 to 4 weeks. There are three ships in final production in the high bay (as can be seen from the highway),” he wrote on X.

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