Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz sent a letter to SpaceX Senior Director of Starship Operations Shyamal Patel last week accusing the company’s private security guards of denying access to Remedios Avenue and Joanna Street.
In the letter, obtained by KGRW, the prosecutor says the company may have violated two state laws – obstructing public roads and impersonating a public official.
This marks the latest in a string of conflicts between Musk’s space venture and the Boca Chica community ever since the eccentric entrepreneur started buying up land in the area back in 2015.
Leaked documents Tuesday revealed SpaceX ignored at least two warnings from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that launching its SN8 rocket last December could pose a danger to nearby homes.
Now, a source has said the aerospace firm may be forced to push back its first orbital flight of its Starship rocket for July because the launch site is the focus of an environmental review by the FAA.
The SpaceX Starship SN-15 prototype launches from the site in Boca Chica, Texas, in May
Elon Musk’s (pictured) SpaceX has been warned it may have broken Texas laws by blocking locals from using public roads in Boca Chica, where its rocket launch site is based
In the letter, dated June 11, Saenz wrote that he had received complaints from local non-profit that SpaceX’s private security guards were closing or denying public access to the two county roads near State Highway 4.
The DA said he sent staff to the area around the SpaceX site to verify the allegations.
The staff were ‘immediately approached, stopped and detained’ by a SpaceX security guard, who told them he was part of the company’s security, ‘that my staff could not use the road, and that they had to turn around,’ he wrote.
Saenz’s staff told the guard they were with the DA’s office and that Cameron County authorities hadn’t given SpaceX permission to close the road, read the letter.
Saenz warned the actions of the company and guard could be illegal in the state.
Obstructing a highway or a passageway is a class B misdemeanor while impersonating a public servant is a third-degree felony.
Saenz warned that any future violations could result in individual SpaceX employees or contractors being arrested and the company being slapped with criminal charges.
‘This conduct is unacceptable. And I strongly believe you, Mr. Patel, and Space-X, also knew it was unacceptable,’ Saenz warned Patel.
Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz sent a letter to SpaceX Senior Director of Starship Operations Shyamal Patel last week accusing the company’s private security guards of denying access to Remedios Avenue and Joanna Street (above)
He went on to say that the company had been warned about similar ‘inappropriate’ conduct back in April.
Saenz also wrote that the security guard appeared to be wearing a bulletproof vest at the time and said he had recently returned from Afghanistan.
Neither the guard nor the company’s head of security have state security licenses, according state records, he said.
The official asked SpaceX to confirm whether or not its security personnel are armed and if they have proper security licenses required under state regulations.
Musk’s company was also asked about the rumored renaming of Joanna Street to Rocket Road.
Saenz said his staff noted that the road ‘appears now to be renamed Rocket Road’ and that it ‘appears part of it may have been built over and/or closed off.’
If Joanna Street is still a public road, this could amount to the taking of public property, Saenz said.
SpaceX was told to respond to the official’s letter by Monday June 14.
It is not clear if a reply has been sent or if any further action is being taken.
DailyMail.com has reached out to both SpaceX and Cameron County District Attorney’s office for comment.
SpaceX crews continue work around SN15 starship prototype in May. In the letter, the prosecutor says SpaceX may have violated two state laws – obstructing public roads and impersonating a public official
News of the issue comes amid a rocky week for Musk and his space business.
A source told CNN Wednesday that SpaceX may be forced to delay the launch of its first Starship rocket orbit mission due to an ongoing assessment of its impact on wildlife and ecosystems around the launch area.
The company needs to carry out an environmental assessment of its impact on nearby wildlife or ecosystems in Boca Chica, the source said.
Only once this is completed, can the space company receive the necessary license from the FAA needed to go ahead with the mission.
The launch was thought to be scheduled for July 1 – just over two weeks’ time.
The source said this is too short a window to get the assessments and launch license in place.
Musk has long grumbled about his relationship with the FAA and accused the agency of delaying his venture.
That relationship appeared more fraught Tuesday as a report surfaced showing SpaceX ignored at least two warnings from the FAA about the safety of its rocket launch in December.
Warnings from the FAA were based on its launch-weather modelling software, according to the documents, which were seen by the Verge.
If the rocket had exploded, its shockwave could be strengthened by weather conditions like wind speed and endanger nearby homes, the models suggested.
SpaceX’s Starship SN8 rocket prototype taking off at the company’s Boca Chica, Texas facility during an attempted high-altitude launch test on December 9 2020. Leaked documents Tuesday revealed SpaceX ignored at least two warnings from FAA that launching its rocket in December could pose a danger to nearby homes
Starship SN8 ended up launching successfully but crash-landing in a ball of flames (above)
SPACEX SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHES SN15
On May 5, SpaceX successfully launched and landed its Starship Serial Number 15 rocket.
It became the only one of its prototypes to survive a high altitude flight test.
The prototype climbed through the sky until it reached six miles, hovered for a moment and then performed the infamous sideways flip, dubbed a ‘belly flop’ maneuver by Musk.
‘Starship landing nominal,’ Musk tweeted moments after his pride and joy made a safe and successful landing on the pad.
But SpaceX ignored the warnings because it said the FAA’s software could be interfered with to provide ‘better or worse results for an identical scenario’.
SpaceX went ahead with the launch, violating its launch license from the FAA in the process.
Starship SN8 ended up launching successfully but crash-landing in a ball of flames.
According to the FAA, SpaceX ‘prioritised speed over safety’ with the launch, which took place at its Boca Chica, Texas testing facility at 5:45pm ET on December 9.
SpaceX’s violation of its launch license was ‘inconsistent with a strong safety culture,’ the FAA’s space division chief Wayne Monteith said in a letter to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell.
‘Although the report states that all SpaceX parties believed that such risk was sufficiently low to comply with regulatory criteria, SpaceX used analytical methods that appeared to be hastily developed to meet a launch window.’
Monteith also slammed SpaceX for proceeding with the launch based on ‘impressions’ and ‘assumptions’ rather than procedural checks.
SpaceX didn’t end up receiving any penalties from the FAA and went on to launch its next prototype, SN9, in February.
On May 5, SpaceX successfully launched and landed its Starship SN15 rocket.
It became the only one of its prototypes to survive a high altitude flight test.
Musk has had a rocky relationship with locals in Boca Chica since he started buying up homes and land in 2015 to expand his SpaceX empire and build a test site for the Starship program.
Musk has had a rocky relationship with locals since he started buying up land in the area back in 2015. Before he moved in, Boca Chica was a quiet hamlet of just 35 houses and was known to be something of an isolated paradise teeming with wildlife
Before Musk moved in, Boca Chica was a quiet hamlet of just 35 houses and a tiny chapel and was known to be something of an isolated paradise teeming with wildlife such as blue buntings and coyotes.
Now, SpaceX has bought up more than half of the homes and turned many of them into workshops, storage sites, and delivery centers.
Last June, residents told DailyMail.com the company was bullying them to leave their homes using threats and aggressive tactics while some likened the noise of rocket launches to living ‘in a war zone’.
SpaceX plans to use its Starship rocket to send astronauts and cargo to the moon and Mars – a step on the way to Musk’s lofty dream of building a city for humans to live on Mars.
Musk vowed this year that SpaceX will be landing Starships on Mars ‘well before 2030.’