Finding of No Significant Impact for SpaceX Launch

January 30, 2009 at 12:42 pm | Posted in Space Law | Leave a comment

by P.J. Blount with the blog faculty

The FAA published a Finding of No Significant impact for SpaceX’s Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle Program at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Florida in Today’s Federal Register (74 Fed. Reg. 5715-5718):

SUMMARY: The FAA participated as a cooperating agency with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) in preparation of the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle Program (Falcon Launch Vehicle Program) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Florida, November 2007. The Falcon Launch Vehicle Program is a commercial venture by Space Exploration Technologies, Inc. (SpaceX) to put spacecraft into orbit and supply the International Space Station (ISS) once the Space Shuttle is retired. The Proposed Action analyzed in the EA includes launching two space launch vehicles, the Falcon 1 and the Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 40, while utilizing the Solid Motor Assembly and Readiness Facility (SMARF) building as a vehicle support facility, and the reentry and recovery of the Dragon reentry capsule in the ocean.

The EA analyzed the environmental consequences of conducting up to twelve Falcon 1 launches per year and up to twelve Falcon 9 launches per year starting in 2008 for the next five years from SLC 40 at CCAFS. Two alternative locations, SLC 37 and 47, were considered for the launch of the Falcon vehicles. The EA also analyzed the environmental consequences of reentry/recovery of the Dragon reentry capsule. Additionally, the EA analyzed infrastructure
improvements proposed at CCAFS to support the proposed launch
activities. The USAF signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)
on December 21, 2007, which stated that the Proposed Action should not have a significant environmental impact on the human environment.

SpaceX is required to obtain a launch license from the FAA to
conduct launches of the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch vehicles with
commercial payloads. SpaceX also is required to obtain a reentry
license from the FAA for the reentry of the Dragon capsule. The FAA is using the EA to support its environmental determination for a launch
license for SpaceX to launch Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 vehicles at CCAFS
and a reentry license for the Dragon capsule.

From its independent review and consideration, the FAA has
determined that the Proposed Action addressed in this FONSI, to issue a launch or reentry license for Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch vehicle activities, is substantially the same as the actions analyzed in the Falcon Launch Vehicle Program EA and that FAA’s comments and
suggestions have been satisfied (see 1506.3(c) and FAA Order 1050.1E, 518h). The FAA formally adopts the EA and hereby incorporates the analysis to support future decisions on license applications.

After reviewing and analyzing currently available data and
information on existing conditions, project impacts, and measures to
mitigate those impacts, the FAA has determined that its action is not a Federal action that would significantly affect the quality of the human environment within the meaning of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Therefore, the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is not required and the FAA is issuing this FONSI. The FAA made this determination in accordance with all applicable environmental laws.

For a Copy of the EA or FONSI Contact: Questions or comments should be directed to Mr. Daniel Czelusniak; FAA Environmental Specialist; Federal Aviation Administration; 800 Independence Ave., SW.; AST-I00, Suite 331; Washington, DC 20591; (202) 267-5924.

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