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SpaceX’s Starship Launch Plan Gets Environmental Approval from Federal Authorities

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SpaceX’s Starship Launch Plan Gets Environmental Approval from Federal Authorities

Consider the turtles.

Changes made to SpaceX’s original plans and new conditions result in an acceptance.


SpaceX's next rocket on site at Boca Chica.

Enlarge / SpaceX’s next rocket on site at Boca Chica.

On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave SpaceX one of several approvals that will be needed before the company can launch its Starship from the Boca Chica site in South Texas. Technology developments have enabled SpaceX to remove some of its original facilities, greatly reducing the site’s footprint and impact.

Still, the company will face restrictions within the site and timing of the launches; it will also be expected to support some environmental and historical interests. Before the company can start operations, it will need FAA approval on safety and risk.

Less is more

SpaceX has been pursuing atmospheric testing of its hardware at Boca Chica. It plans to make this the main launch site of the Super Heavy vehicles, which will lift its Starship vehicle into orbit. SpaceX also intends to use it for commercial cargo. It could also return to the booster site, or land offshore, and be ferried back.

All of that would involve a shift from experimental operations to regular commercial flights. This triggers the National Environmental Policy Act evaluation to make sure that the plans for operations and construction of facilities do not damage historic or biological features.

The FAA’s final environmental assessment was made significantly easier because SpaceX amended its plans to delete three major components of the launch facility. First, these would use commercially available methane. It will also remove some impurities in order to make a fuel compatible for the company’s Raptor engine. These engines can now operate with commercial-grade methane thanks to modifications.

The other major eliminations were a desalination facility and a power plant that would be needed to operate it. It would produce water that could be used to reduce the spread of flaming fuel during launch. SpaceX has removed them because it’s not clear if a water qunch will be necessary during launches. If so, water will be trucked to the site.

Making peace with the locals

NEPA also requires that SpaceX’s plans be evaluated to determine if they disrupt the area’s people, places, and wildlife. SpaceX will have to improve its system to notify the public about launch activities. SpaceX has also set off-limit launches on most holidays, including father’s and mother’s day, and any other activities that may require restricted access to the launch area. This includes a stretch along the highway, as well as anything else. SpaceX agreed to compensate anyone who was affected by sonic booms, although noise issues were not significant.

Biologically, the big issue is sea turtles, which come to the nearby beaches to lay eggs. Artificial lighting can disrupt the turtles’ reproduction. The Moonlight is partly responsible for the timing of their nesting. SpaceX will need to provide directed and shielded lighting in order to reduce the spread to nearby beaches. It will also hire a biologist for an evaluation of its efforts. SpaceX will have to make sure that peregrine falcons are not nesting on structures.

The company will also be required to help promote wildlife photography in the area, sponsor beach cleanups, and build wildlife crossings on the highway that leads to its site. It will be prohibited from having vehicles transport non-native species. The same applies if the booster is being brought back by barges after offshore landings.

Finally, the site encompasses a historic oddity: the location of a battle fought between Union and Confederate forces after the Civil War ended and the Confederate government ceased to exist. SpaceX will place historical markers and preserve any items discovered during construction.

Overall, none of these conditions seems like a major problem, so the approval seems to be a major win for the company. This approval will allow for any questions regarding the company’s compliance with its agreement and any subsequent lawsuits to be addressed. These issues, as well as any other legal actions, will not affect the company’s operations.

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FIFA 23 lets you turn off commentary pointing out how bad you are

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FIFA 23 lets you turn off commentary pointing out how bad you are
A player shouldering the ball



(Image credit: EA)

FIFA 23 might be the best game soccer game yet for terrible sports fans, as it lets you turn off commentary that criticizes your bad playing.

Now that the early access FIFA 23 release time has passed, EA Play and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers can hop into the game ahead of its full release. But as Eurogamer (opens in new tab) spotted, they’ll find a peculiar option waiting for them.

FIFA 23 includes a toggle to turn off ‘Critical Commentary’. The setting lets you silence all negative in-match comments made about your technique, so you can protect your precious ego even when you miss an open goal or commit an obvious foul. The more positive commentary won’t be affected. 

Spare your feelings

A player dribbling the ball in FIFA 23

(Image credit: EA)

The feature looks tailored toward children and new players, who don’t want to have their confidence wrecked within mere minutes of picking up the controller. But even experienced players who just so happen to be terrible at the game might benefit.

It’s not perfect, though. According to Eurogamer, the feature didn’t seem to work during a FIFA Ultimate Team Division Rivals match, with critical comments slipping through the filter. Still, who hasn’t benefited from a light grilling every now and then?

Polite commentary isn’t the only new addition in FIFA 23. It’s the first game in the series to include women’s club football teams, and fancy overhauled animations that take advantage of the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S’s new-gen hardware. EA will be hoping to end on a high, as FIFA 23 will be the last of its soccer games to release with the official FIFA licence.

If disabling critical commentary doesn’t improve your soccer skills, maybe building a squad of Marvel superheroes will. Although you might not do much better with Ted Lasso wandering the pitch.

FIFA 23 is set to fully release this Friday, September 30.

Callum is TechRadar Gaming’s News Writer. You’ll find him whipping up stories about all the latest happenings in the gaming world, as well as penning the odd feature and review. Before coming to TechRadar, he wrote freelance for various sites, including Clash, The Telegraph, and Gamesindustry.biz, and worked as a Staff Writer at Wargamer. Strategy games and RPGs are his bread and butter, but he’ll eat anything that spins a captivating narrative. He also loves tabletop games, and will happily chew your ear off about TTRPGs and board games. 

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Google Pixel 7 price leak suggests Google is totally out of touch

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Google Pixel 7 price leak suggests Google is totally out of touch
The backs of the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro



(Image credit: Google)

We’re starting to hear more and more Google Pixel 7 leaks, with the launch of the phone just a week away, but tech fans might be getting a lot of déjà vu, with the leaks all listing near-identical specs to what we heard about the Pixel 6 a year ago.

It sounds like the new phones – a successor to the Pixel 6 Pro is also expected – could be very similar to their 2021 predecessors. And a new price leak has suggested that the phones’ costs could be the same too, as a Twitter user spotted the Pixel 7 briefly listed on Amazon (before being promptly taken down, of course).

Google pixel 7 on Amazon US. $599.99.It is still showing up in search cache but the listing gives an error if you click on it. We have the B0 number to keep track of though!#teampixel pic.twitter.com/w5Z09D28YESeptember 27, 2022

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According to these listings, the Pixel 7 will cost $599 while the Pixel 7 Pro will cost $899, both of which are identical to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro starting prices. The leak doesn’t include any other region prices, but in the UK the current models cost £599 and £849, while in Australia they went for AU$999 and AU$1,299.

So it sounds like Google is planning on retaining the same prices for its new phones as it sold the old ones for, a move which doesn’t make much sense.


Analysis: same price, new world

Google’s choice to keep the same price points is a little curious when you consider that the specs leaks suggest these phones are virtually unchanged from their predecessors. You’re buying year-old tech for the same price as before.

Do bear in mind that the price of tech generally lowers over time, so you can readily pick up a cheaper Pixel 6 or 6 Pro right now, and after the launch of the new ones, the older models will very likely get even cheaper.

But there’s another key factor to consider in the price: $599 might be the same number in 2022 as it was in 2021, but with the changing global climate, like wars and flailing currencies and cost of living crises, it’s a very different amount of money.

Some people just won’t be willing to shell out the amount this year, that they may have been able to last year. But this speaks to a wider issue in consumer tech.

Google isn’t the only tech company to completely neglect the challenging global climate when pricing its gadgets: Samsung is still releasing super-pricey folding phones, and the iPhone 14 is, for some incomprehensible reason, even pricier than the iPhone 13 in some regions. 

Too few brands are actually catering to the tough economic times many are facing right now, with companies increasing the price of their premium offerings to counter rising costs, instead of just designing more affordable alternatives to flagships.

These high and rising prices suggest that companies are totally out of touch with their buyers, and don’t understand the economic hardship troubling many.

We’ll have to reach a breaking point sooner or later, either with brands finally clueing into the fact that they need to release cheaper phones, or with customers voting with their wallets by sticking to second-hand or refurbished devices. But until then, you can buy the best cheap phones to show that cost is important to you.

Tom’s role in the TechRadar team is to specialize in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working in TechRadar freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. Outside of TechRadar he works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.

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DisplayMate awards the “Best Smartphone Display” title to the iPhone 14 Pro Max

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DisplayMate awards the “Best Smartphone Display” title to the iPhone 14 Pro Max

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