Spacecraft launch plan at Kennedy Space Center draws environmental comment

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SpaceX officials hope to launch and land its massive, 492-foot-tall Starship-Super Heavy rockets as many as 44 times a year at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

But Susan Palma, a Titusville resident for 40 years, fears further development on the Cape will further disrupt the natural water flow and salinity of the imperiled Indian River Lagoon. She attended an environmental meeting Wednesday about the spacecraft’s potential impacts, armed with a written statement warning of the dangers of hazardous materials and animals being negatively affected by air, light and noise pollution.

“I moved to the river in 2011. Within three years, my waterfront went from salty to dead. And it’s still dead. There’s no grass. There’s no plants. There’s no more manatees,” Palma said.

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“It’s dead. It’s brown. It’s smelly. It’s murky and muddy. It’s been like that for 10 years. I’m already thinking about getting out. If they’re going to start expanding the space center, and they’re not going to pay attention to the environmental (impacts), I’ll probably leave.” .

On Wednesday, the Radisson Resort at the Harbor at Cape Canaveral hosted a pair of open houses on the potential environmental impacts of the superheavy spacecraft. The Federal Aviation Administration is collecting comments on SpaceX’s plan to bring the massive rocket system to Pad 39A.

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A group of experts at the event fielded individual questions at eight stations mounted on billboards inside the meeting room. The FAA is the lead agency for the Environmental Impact Statement. Other participating federal agencies: NASA, US Air Force, Coast Guard, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service.

On Thursday, the FAA will collect comments during a similar public meeting for the Starship-Super Heavy vehicle from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Debus Conference Facility at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Then on Monday, a virtual meeting will be held from 6pm to 8pm. More details:

  • Enlarge URL: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/89402979916
  • Zoom Meeting ID: 894 0297 9916
  • Optional contact numbers: 833-928-4608, 833-928-4609 or 833-928-4610.

The FAA said the virtual meeting will include “an auto-playing closed-door presentation describing the purpose of the scoping meetings, the project timeline, opportunities for public engagement, a summary of the proposed action and alternatives, and a summary of the environmental resource area.”

In addition to the launch, SpaceX proposes to land Super Heavy boosters and Starships at Pad 39A and on drone ships in the Atlantic Ocean; – Launching very heavy boosters into the Atlantic Ocean at least 5 nautical miles from shore; Spacecraft spending in the open ocean between 55 degrees south latitude and 55 degrees north latitude.

SpaceX officials want to build a super-heavy capture tower at Pad 39A, along with on-site facilities for fuel generation and storage, a cooling tower, an air separation unit, and a dousing system, an FAA fact sheet said.

NASA’s 2019 environmental assessment of future Starship-Super Heavy operations found that launches would have no significant impact on the biological or physical environment at Pad 39A.

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SpaceX officials also hope to begin launching Starship-Super Heavy rockets by 2026 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The Air Force is preparing an environmental impact statement for the spacecraft with NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Coast Guard.

Last week, crews loaded parts of the Starship launch tower onto a barge at Turn Basin at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for shipment to SpaceX Starbase in Brownsville, Texas.

Rockledge resident Brad Whitmore attended the open house Wednesday afternoon. He lives in a 105-year-old historic house just south of the village of Cocoa, and said the rumbling vibrations from a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch on southeast trajectories may have cracked the plaster in his home’s ceiling and walls over the past year. He said others are expressing similar structural concerns in his neighborhood near the lake.

“(The frequency of launches) will continue to increase significantly in the future. It will include the addition of moving from what are mostly Falcon 9s to include more Falcon Heavies and larger rockets like SLS, Starship and Blue Origin,” he said.

“Falcon 9s can go from ‘you can barely hear it’ to ‘shake my house’ — my windows shake and shake, and the things on my desk shake and move,” he said.

For the latest news from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, visit floridatoday.com/space.

Rick Neil He is Florida Today’s space correspondent. Contact Neal on [email protected]. Twitter/X: @Rick Neal1

Space is important to us, which is why we’re working to provide better coverage of industry and launches in Florida. Such journalism requires time and resources. Please support him by subscribing here.

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