NASA Conducts Environmental Assessment, Practices Responsible Growth
In response to an inquiry from SpaceX, NASA is preparing to conduct environmental assessments to develop a proposed new launch site, Launch Complex 49, at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The 175-acre site, located north of Launch Complex 39B within the center's security perimeter, would support the launch and landing of the company's Starship and Super Heavy launch vehicle. NASA and SpaceX are moving forward with the initial environmental analysis before concluding a potential agreement to develop the property.
"LC-49 has been a part of Kennedy's master plan for several years," said Tom Engler, Kennedy's director of Center Planning and Development. "The Notice of Availability was updated in 2014."
NASA's commitment to environmental protections is codified in Kennedy Space Center's Master Plan and Vision Plan, and all development activities on Kennedy are subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
"Every new construction project, whether government or commercial, goes through a comprehensive environmental review process," said Don Dankert, technical lead for the Kennedy Environmental Planning Office. "This ensures that we are able to identify potential environmental impacts and define any associated mitigations prior to project implementation."
The spaceport, located on 140,000 acres shared with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore, is home to numerous threatened and endangered species that live in harmony with the spaceport's mission as the nation's premier multi-user spaceport.
NASA will begin inter-agency and public scoping for the proposed LC-49 Environmental Assessment in early 2022. Scoping is a part of the NEPA process through which a federal agency describes a proposed action and potential alternatives. The agency will then seek input from other agencies, organizations, and the public on potentially affected resources, environmental issues, and the agency's planned approach to analysis.
Other recent NEPA investigations at Kennedy cover the ongoing construction of the Indian River Bridge, the expansion of attractions at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex, an environmental assessment of the new Launch Complex 48, as well as assessments for potential developments in Exploration Park and at the Launch and Landing Facility.
Kennedy's environmental team also is working to help improve the health of the Indian River Lagoon. In November 2021, the team shared its Indian River Lagoon Health Initiative with representatives from the five counties and various state and federal organizations that comprise the Indian River Lagoon Council. The plan identifies current and potential projects to help improve the fragile ecosystem in the estuary as part of a statewide watershed management approach to restore and protect Florida's water quality.
"We work hard to achieve a balance between spaceport growth and operations and environmental stewardship," Dankert said. "It's through the environmental programs that we are able to preserve and protect our unique and valuable natural resources while achieving NASA's mission and values."