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Record SpaceX booster big enough to deafen life around it

7 months 2 weeks 1 day ago Thursday, February 09 2023 Feb 9, 2023 February 09, 2023 7:59 PM February 09, 2023 in News - Local

The new SpaceX booster tested Thursday at Boca Chica packs more engines and the capacity for more force than ever before. The anticipated sound waves are enough to damage hearing and rattle bones, according to an audiologist.

The 33 Raptor engines fired at Boca Chica beach amounted to more than a doubling of the previous static fire tests. Thursday afternoon, the sound could be heard clearly five miles away at Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island.

"Listening to a rocket launch... is exceeding 180 decibels," said Dr. Bria Collins, an audiologist with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. "Being near that sound source within seconds, you can risk permanent hearing loss.”

Residents were nowhere near the blast zone Thursday. An evacuation zone blocked road access some 15 miles away on Highway 4. Onlookers at Isla Blanca Park were among the closest, watching from 5 miles away.

But native wildlife around the launch site stayed in place. The launch pad is surrounded on four sides by protected lands. The area is considered range for endangered species such as the Kemp's ridley sea turtle, aplomado falcon and ocelot.

“Animals tend to have more sensitive ears than humans,” Collins said. 

“So you definitely have some animals that if they're in close range to this rocket launch are at risk for, in addition to hearing loss, they may be having some dizziness or vertigo because that sound pressure is so great."

Waves may even cause bone fractures on smaller animals, Collins said.

A projected range of the decibel levels for a launch that was conducted by the FAA as part of a recent environmental review showed decibel labels as high as 140 in the launch zones.

Following the test, the company continues moving forward with an orbital test launch as soon as March, according to SpaceX's CEO.

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