McGregor: City modifies SpaceX rocket testing rules

SpaceX nine-engine test. (SpaceX photo/file)
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McGREGOR, Texas (KWTX) The City Council in McGregor on Monday night passed a series of ordinances aimed at reducing noise and vibration caused by rocket motor testing at the SpaceX facility.

Officials at SpaceX agreed to the changes in the ordinances Monday night.

The ordinance, entitled Rocket Motor Testing Zone, sets out parameters about how loud any given rocket motor test can be and sets a schedule of payments to the city for each of the, limits.

The city is engaged in a lease agreement with SpaceX that includes more than 4,200 acres of land on the western side of the city and on which the company tests rocket motors.

Residents in McGregor, Oglesby, Woodway, Waco, McGregor and other Central Texas cities have long complained about the excessive noise the motors make during testing cycles.

The new ordinances set noise limits, times tests can be performed, limits on the size of rocket motors that can be tested and limits on vibrations the rocket motors can produce.

Fees payable to the city can reach as much as $50,000 per test if the rules are not adhered to.

The ordinance establishes the Rocket Motor Testing Zone, which is the area within one mile of the center point of the zone.

The restrictions on sound are established within three miles of the center of the City of McGregor.

For a test whose volume exceeds 115 decibels, the city requires a permit that includes payment of $5,000 for each test.

For a test that exceeds 120 decibels, the city requires a permit and a payment of $7,500 per test.

For a test that exceeds 125 decibels a permit and payment of $50,000 is required, the ordinance says.

The ordinance also establishes a requirement that the city be allowed to inspect the facility to ensure that the company is adhering to the new requirements.

The ordinance also limits acceptance tests to 15-seconds or less and says that if noise limits of 125 decibels are exceeded, the test must be curtailed within 3 seconds.

Testing also is generally restricted between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. and all tests involving a rocket motor that generates 2 million pounds of thrust must be conducted during daylight hours.

The previous agreement allowed for testing as late as 10 p.m.

In certain instances late night tests can be permitted after payment of a $10,000 fee for the first test in any calendar year and $15,000 for the second test.

The ordinance also requires SpaceX to provide commercial general liability insurance of $20,000 to cover any possible personal injury or property damage and an additional $10,000 to cover any pollution liability.

The ordinance requires SpaceX to monitor both sound and vibration and provide data from those tests to the city upon request.

In addition, the actual launching of any vehicle into the atmosphere or into space is specifically prohibited at the McGregor facility.

Fines for violations of the ordinances are: $10,000 for the first violation, $15,000 for the second and $25,000 for any subsequent violations.