Curiosity rules at SpaceX Starship environmental impact conference on the Space Coast

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If SpaceX’s Starship and Super Heavy are able to find a home on the Space Coast, the most powerful orbital rockets ever launched from here will have an impact on the environment.

The process of figuring out exactly what the two potential sites at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station will be has begun, including two public hearings about concerns over frequent rocket launches. It will include a series of in-person and virtual meetings for comment. It’s as powerful as the Saturn V rocket of the Apollo program.

The first public meeting drew hundreds of curious residents to the Catherine Schweinsberg Ruud Central Cocoa Library on the evening of March 5th.

“The purpose of today’s and this week’s meetings is to get as many members of the public, residents, researchers, teachers, whoever we can, to actually come here in person and share their comments, concerns, Questions, almost anything about this process, please submit them online or by email,” said Emre Kelly, director of media operations for Space Launch Delta 45, the Space Force group that oversees the launch site.

The meeting will be the first step in a process led by the Department of the Air Force that is expected to take about 15 months to complete an environmental impact report. The Space Force is part of the Air Force, just as the Marines are part of the Navy.

The goal of the EIC, announced in February, is to determine whether the Air Force will take over 37 existing space launch facilities through lease agreements, create 50 new space launch facilities, or do nothing.

SLC 37 is currently the launch site for United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy, but the last rocket is expected to fly by this summer, after which ULA is expected to relinquish its lease on the launch site. . The new SLC 50 will be located on currently undeveloped land between SLC 40 and SLC 37, where SpaceX launches its Falcon 9 rockets.

Instead of a set of speakers talking about various aspects of the program’s environmental impact, representatives from the Space Force, Federal Aviation Administration, NASA, and the Coast Guard will discuss the where, why, and next steps in the environmental impact assessment process. They were placed around explanatory placards. .

Throughout the three-hour event, members of the public kept coming in to ask questions about the plan.

“They have a lot of work to do,” said John Bolin, who came from Merritt Island with his two adult sons, Tom and Greg. “We were hoping that maybe we’d get more information about the vehicle and things like that, but it’s too early.”

“I feel great,” Tom added, noting that he was sleeping through the more frequent sonic booms that sometimes occur with SpaceX’s current rocket launches. “I think SpaceX has a good track record. If anyone is going to be successful in building a big rocket like that, I think they’re ahead of the curve at this point. So I don’t think there’s any problem. I do not think.”

The second meeting will be tonight, March 6th from 4-7pm at the Titusville Civic Center, followed by Thursday, March 7th from 4-7pm at the Radisson Resort at the Port in Cape Canaveral. Will be held. A virtual meeting is also scheduled for March 12th, and will be recorded and available for viewing until March 22nd, according to the website spaceforcestarshipeis.com.

Anyone on the site may leave written comments or have access to leave comments online. The comments will be reflected in the draft EIS, which is expected to be released in December.

“There will be another meeting after that,” Kelly said. “So, obviously, it’s very important for anyone who has any thoughts on this to publicly comment, and you don’t have to give out your name or address or anything like that. Obviously the important thing to note is that comments Then it becomes public record.”

The final version of the EIC is the most intensive regulatory oversight option under the National Environmental Policy Act and is targeted for release in summer 2025 using alternative preferred launch sites. Only then will SpaceX be able to move forward with a new launch site agreement.

SpaceX currently uses its Starbase launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, for its Starship and Super Heavy launch attempts. The rocket can generate more than 17 million pounds of thrust during liftoff.

The first two missions in 2023 ended in explosive fashion, but the last one in November technically succeeded in reaching space. The third attempt is awaiting FAA approval to begin and could begin later this month.

SpaceX has also been building a launch tower to support Starship launches from Launch Pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center, but the company’s plans call for hundreds or even thousands of launches per year. He said multiple launch sites are needed to support multiple Starship launches.

So we might eventually see Starship on the KSC launch pad as well, but that’s up to NASA. This his EIC is specifically tailored for Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

“This is between the Air Force and Space Force and SpaceX,” Kelly said.

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