[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 172 (Wednesday, September 6, 2006)]
[Pages 52603-52608]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E6-14741]



Federal Aviation Administration

Finding of No Significant Impact

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of 
Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Finding of no significant impact.


SUMMARY: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prepared an 
Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate the proposal from Blue 
Origin, LLC (Blue Origin) to construct and operate a commercial space 
launch site to be located on privately-owned property in Culberson 
County, Texas. Blue Origin proposes to develop this commercial space 
launch site to launch vertical reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) carrying 
space flight participants \1\ on suborbital, ballistic trajectories to 
altitudes in excess of 99,060 meters (325,000 feet) above sea level. 
The EA evaluated the potential environmental impacts of issuing 
experimental permits and/or licenses to Blue Origin authorizing 
vertical launches and landings of RLVs and/or operation of a launch 
site for same. Blue Origin may seek experimental permits to conduct 
early developmental and test flights. Blue Origin may also seek a 
launch site operator license, RLV mission-specific licenses, and RLV 
operator licenses, as appropriate. After reviewing and analyzing 
currently available data and information on existing conditions, 
project impacts, and measures to mitigate those impacts, the FAA, 
Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) has determined that 
issuing the experimental permits and/or licenses analyzed in the EA to 
Blue Origin would not 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 AST is issuing a Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI). The FAA made this determination in accordance with all 
applicable environmental laws.

    \1\ Space flight participant means an individual, who is not 
crew, carried within a launch vehicle or reentry vehicle. 49 United 
States Code (U.S.C.) 70102(17) Flight crew means any employee of a 
licensee or transferee, or of a contractor or subcontractor of a 
licensee or transferee, who is on board a launch or reentry vehicle 
and performs activities in the course of that employment directly 
relating to the launch, reentry, or other operation of the launch 
vehicle or reentry vehicle. See 49 U.S.C. 70102(2) (defining crew).

    For a copy of the Environmental Assessment: Visit the following 
internet address: http://ast.faa.gov or contact Mr. Doug Graham, FAA 
Environmental Specialist, 800 Independence Avenue SW., Room 331, 
Washington, DC 20591. You may also send requests via e-mail to 
[email protected] or by telephone at (202) 267-8568.

DATES: The Draft EA was released for public comment on June 28, 2006. 
The FAA held a public meeting on the Draft EA on July 25, 2006 in Van 
Horn, Texas to collect comments from the public. All comments received 
before July 27, 2006 were considered in the preparation of the Final 
    Proposed action: Under Title 49 United States Code (U.S.C.), 
Subtitle IX, Sections 70101-70121, Commercial Space Launch Act, the FAA 
regulates launches and reentries of launch and reentry vehicles, and 
the operation of launch and reentry sites when carried out by U.S. 
citizens or within the United States. (49 U.S.C. 70104, 70105) Chapter 
701 directs the FAA to exercise this responsibility consistent with 
public health and safety, safety of property, and the national security 
and foreign policy interests of the United States, and to encourage, 
facilitate, and promote commercial space launch and reentry by the 
private sector. (49 U.S.C. 70103, 70105)
    The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 (CSLAA) promotes 
the development of the emerging commercial/human space flight industry 
and establishes an experimental permit regime for developmental 
reusable suborbital rockets. This newly established experiment permit 
regime provides an alternative mechanism to regulate the launch and 
reentry of reusable suborbital rockets (49 U.S.C. 70105a). To conduct 
commercial launch operations, Blue Origin must obtain the required 
experimental permit(s) and/or license(s) from the FAA. Under the 
proposed action the FAA would issue experimental permits, a launch site 
operator license, RLV mission-specific licenses, and/or RLV operator 
licenses, as appropriate.
    Experimental permits differ from launch licenses in a number of 
     Unlike a licensed operator, no person may launch a 
reusable suborbital rocket under an experimental permit for carrying 
any property or human being for compensation or hire.

[[Page 52604]]

     A permit is not transferable. A license is transferable 
from one entity to another, which could occur after a merger or 
     Damages arising out of a permitted launch or reentry are 
not eligible for ``indemnification,'' the provisional payment of claims 
under 49 U.S.C. 70113. To the extent provided in an appropriation law 
or other legislative authority, damages caused by licensed activities 
are eligible for the provisional payment of claims.
     A permit must authorize an unlimited number of launch and 
reentries for a particular reusable suborbital rocket design operating 
from a site during a one-year period.
    An experimental permit would allow Blue Origin to conduct testing 
of reusable suborbital rockets that would be launched and landed solely 
for the purposes of (1) research and development to test new design 
concepts, new equipment, or new operating techniques; (2) showing 
compliance with requirements as part of the process for obtaining a 
license; and/or (3) crew training prior to obtaining a license for a 
launch or reentry using the design of the rocket for which the permit 
would be issued. The FAA would issue a separate permit for each rocket 
    An RLV mission-specific license authorizing an RLV mission would 
allow Blue Origin to launch and reenter, or otherwise land, one model 
or type of RLV from a launch site approved for the mission to a reentry 
site or other location approved for the mission. A mission-specific 
license authorizing an RLV mission may authorize more than one RLV 
mission and identifies each flight of an RLV authorized under the 
license. An RLV operator license would allow Blue Origin to launch and 
reenter, or otherwise land, any of a designated family of RLVs within 
authorized parameters. A licensee's authorization to conduct RLV 
missions terminates upon completion of all activities authorized by the 
license, or the expiration date stated in the reentry license, 
whichever comes first.
    The FAA is the lead Federal agency responsible for authorizing the 
proposed launch activities at the proposed Blue Origin facility. 
Issuing permits and licenses are Federal actions and are subject to 
review as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 
1969, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 4321, et seq. The EA was prepared to 
describe the proposed action and alternatives considered, the affected 
environment, the potential effects of the proposed action on that 
environment, and measures to be taken to mitigate those potential 
effects. The FAA is using the analysis in the EA as the basis for an 
environmental determination of the potential impacts of these proposed 
    Upon receipt of complete permit or license applications, the 
Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation must 
determine whether to issue experimental permits or licenses to Blue 
Origin to launch reusable suborbital rockets on privately-owned 
property in Culberson County, Texas. Environmental findings are 
required for the evaluation of license and permit applications.
    The proposed action is for the FAA to issue one or more 
experimental permits and/or licenses to Blue Origin. Blue Origin 
proposes to launch RLVs on suborbital, ballistic trajectories to 
altitudes in excess of 99,060 meters (325,000 feet). To conduct these 
operations, Blue Origin would construct a private launch site, which 
would include a vehicle processing facility, launch complex, vehicle 
landing and recovery area, space flight participant training facility, 
and other minor support facilities. The proposed Blue Origin launch 
site is approximately 40.2 kilometers (25 miles) north of Van Horn, 
Texas. It lies within a larger, privately-owned property known as the 
Corn Ranch.
    The proposed action would include the operation of a launch site to 
support launches of the Blue Origin New Shepard RLV and New Shepard 
prototype test vehicles. The New Shepard RLV system would be comprised 
of a propulsion module and a crew capsule capable of carrying three or 
more space flight participants to space. The crew capsule is stacked on 
top of the propulsion module, so the RLV would be vertically-oriented 
during flight. The stacked vehicle would have a roughly conical shape 
with a base diameter of approximately 7 meters (22 feet) and a height 
of approximately 15 meters (50 feet). The propulsion module would be 
fully reusable, would carry its own avionics, and would operate 
autonomously under the control of on-board computers. The propulsion 
module would use 90 percent concentration hydrogen peroxide, called 
high test peroxide, and rocket propellant grade kerosene as the 
propellants. Before flying the human-carrying operational New Shepard 
RLV for commercial operation, Blue Origin also proposes to develop and 
flight test a series of unmanned prototypes at the West Texas launch 
    The activities analyzed in the proposed action include clearing and 
grading the land where construction activities are proposed to occur; 
constructing the launch site facilities; transporting the vehicle, 
vehicle components, and propellants to the proposed site; assembling 
the various vehicle components; conducting ground-based tests; moving 
the launch vehicle to the test pad; loading the space flight 
participants or other payload; loading propellants into the launch 
vehicle; igniting the rocket motors; collecting any debris from the 
test pad; and landing, recovering, and transporting the RLV from the 
landing pad.
    Purpose and Need: The proposed Blue Origin launch facility would 
provide Blue Origin with an alternative to launching the New Shepard 
vehicle from a Federal or other FAA-licensed launch facility. The 
proposed facility would provide a location from which to transport 
space flight participants to the edge of space and return them to the 
same launch area after a short flight. These activities are consistent 
with the purposes of the CSLAA. Given the infrastructure and 
development costs associated with constructing launch facilities, the 
Federal government has been the owner/operator of, has leased/sold 
unused or excess infrastructure, and has provided expertise to 
commercial launch operators for the majority of commercial launches. 
However, with increasing demand for access to space, commercial launch 
site operators have begun to develop proposals to offer launch sites, 
not collocated with Federal facilities or operated by the Department of 
Defense or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, to meet 
the demand for lower cost access to space.
    The proposed Blue Origin launch site would provide the 
infrastructure necessary to support testing and operation of Blue 
Origin's New Shepard RLV. Accordingly, the proposed action would permit 
Blue Origin to pursue its objective of developing safe, inexpensive, 
and reliable human access to space.
    Alternatives Considered: Alternatives analyzed in the EA included 
(1) the proposed action, issuing experimental permits, a launch site 
operator license, RLV mission-specific licenses, and/or RLV operator 
licenses, as appropriate, to Blue Origin for the launch and landing of 
vertical launch/vertical landing reusable suborbital rockets on 
privately-owned property in Culberson County, Texas; and (2) the no 
action alternative. The activities included in this analysis are 
launching and landing the New Shepard RLV and prototype test vehicles 
at the proposed site. The EA conservatively assumes that all tests and

[[Page 52605]]

launches would be conducted using the final operational New Shepard 
RLV. Therefore, the FAA did not specifically analyze the impacts 
associated with issuing a subset of experimental permits or licenses 
for a mix of vehicles because the impacts would be within the range 
    Under the no action alternative, the FAA would not issue permits or 
licenses to Blue Origin for the purposes of conducting launch 
operations in Culberson County, Texas. Blue Origin would not conduct 
RLV testing or launch operations, and the goals set forth by the CSLA 
would not be advanced. As part of the no action alternative, the 
proposed site in Culberson County would remain private property. Blue 
Origin would be forced to identify other private property options or to 
reconsider association with State-sponsored spaceport facilities. For 
Blue Origin, these decisions could result in higher RLV development and 
operational costs, decreased operational capabilities, and delays to 
Blue Origin's proposed development schedules.

Environmental Impacts

Air Resources

    The proposed project area is currently in attainment under the 
National Clean Air Act. Impacts on air quality would occur during the 
construction and operation of the launch site. The estimated increases 
in emission concentrations from planned construction activities would 
be small fractions of either State or Federal ambient air quality 
standards. Construction impacts are expected to be localized and short-
term. The estimated increases in ambient background concentrations from 
operations would be negligible. No significant impacts on air resources 
would be anticipated.

Ecological Resources

    Construction activities would result in the clearing, grading, or 
disturbance of approximately 308 hectares (760 acres), which is 
approximately 4.1 percent of the 7,527 hectares (18,600 acres) within 
the launch site perimeter fence line. Almost all construction activity 
would be in vegetation characterized as creosote bush community, which 
comprises approximately 5,595 hectares (13,825 acres) of the launch 
site. Because this plant community type is common on the launch site 
and throughout the Chihuahuan Desert, the anticipated loss would 
represent only a small portion of this habitat type and would not 
adversely affect local or regional diversity of plants and plant 
    Construction activities would cause impacts on wildlife through 
elimination of vegetation communities (i.e., habitats) and their 
associated fauna. Small numbers of animals inhabiting the construction 
area could be displaced by construction activity while others would be 
expected to disperse to less disturbed areas of the proposed launch 
site or off site.
    Launch and landing noise and sonic booms would have potential for 
disturbing wildlife; however, the disturbance would be short lived and 
would have no more effect on local wildlife than military aircraft that 
routinely fly over the Corn Ranch property on low-level training 
    No State or federally listed species were observed in surveys of 
the proposed Blue Origin site conducted in January and April 2005. 
Based on the habitats present, three State-listed species (Chihuahuan 
Desert lyre snake, Trans-Pecos black-headed snake, Texas horned lizard) 
and one federally-listed species (Northern aplomado falcon) could occur 
in limited numbers in the vicinity of the site. It is conceivable that 
small numbers of these State-listed reptiles or Northern aplomado 
falcons could be disturbed by construction activities, launch noise or 
sonic booms. Any disturbance from launch activities would be brief 
(less than approximately one minute) and create impacts at the proposed 
launch site similar to those currently experienced as a result of 
military aircraft operations.
    The FAA conducted informal consultation with the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding potential impacts to threatened or 
endangered species. The USFWS concurred with the FAA's determination 
that the proposed action would not adversely affect listed or candidate 
species or critical habitat.

Cultural/Native American Resources

    The proposed locations where construction activities would occur 
for the launch site contain two archaeological sites determined to be 
eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Mitigation 
measures have been proposed to protect these sites during construction. 
If previously unknown cultural deposits are discovered, construction 
activities in the area would halt, and a qualified archaeologist would 
evaluate the discovery. Appropriate treatment activities would be 
determined, if necessary, in consultation with the Texas State Historic 
Preservation Officer (SHPO). Direct impacts to cultural resources from 
maintenance or operating activities would be unlikely since these 
activities would take place within areas already disturbed by 
construction. The FAA, SHPO, and Blue Origin signed a Memorandum of 
Agreement regarding avoidance of adverse effects to site 41CU695 and 
mitigation of adverse effects to site 41CU696, Culberson County, Texas.

Hazardous Materials/Waste Management

    The construction activities would use small quantities of hazardous 
materials, which would result in generation of small volumes of 
hazardous wastes. The hazardous materials that are expected to be used 
are common to construction activities and include diesel fuel, 
gasoline, and liquefied natural gas to fuel the construction equipment, 
hydraulic fluids, oils and lubricants, welding gases, paints, solvents, 
adhesives, and batteries. Appropriate hazardous material management 
techniques would be followed to minimize their use and ensure safe 
    Non-hazardous and hazardous waste generated during construction of 
the launch site would include construction debris, empty containers, 
spent solvents, waste oil, spill cleanup materials (if used), and lead-
acid batteries from construction equipment. Blue Origin would ensure 
that construction contractors safely remove these wastes from the site 
for recycling or disposal in accordance with applicable Federal, State, 
and local requirements.
    The hazardous material management practices described above for 
construction would also be followed during launch site operations. The 
majority of the hazardous materials used in launch operations are the 
propellants for the launch vehicle and compressed gases. Other 
hazardous materials would be used in much smaller amounts with on site 
storage limited to less than 379 liters (100 gallons). Substantial 
impacts to the environment are not expected from the presence of 
hazardous materials and wastes during launch site operations.

Land Use (Including Farmland and Section 4(f) Resources)

    Construction of the launch site would permanently cover about 90.3 
hectares (223 acres) of desert scrubland with impermeable surfaces, 
such as building foundations, test pad, parking lots, etc. This 
relatively small area represents 1.2 percent of the launch site. 
Operation of the launch site would necessitate the fencing and 
enclosure of approximately

[[Page 52606]]

7,527 hectares (18,600 acres) of desert scrubland and grassland that 
are currently used as a private wildlife management area. This acreage 
will continue to provide habitat for wildlife and land use would be 
essentially unchanged; only the core facility areas would be converted 
to industrial use.
    No prime farmland, unique farmland, farmland of State importance, 
or general farmland would be converted to a non-agricultural use as a 
result of the proposed action. No conflicts with existing agricultural 
uses would occur as a result of the proposed action. Section 4(f) 
properties would not be significantly impacted by the proposed action 
because it does not require the use of any section 4(f) properties, and 
it does not create a constructive use that substantially impairs the 

Visual Resources

    During construction, the visual landscape would be impacted 
primarily by construction activities associated with the two launch 
site access road improvements that would intersect State Highway 54 and 
the associated vehicle traffic traveling to and from the launch site. A 
visual impact from construction activities would result because the 
launch site facilities would be built 8 kilometers (5 miles) to the 
east of State Highway 54. Facilities and infrastructure including 
buildings, storage tanks, launch and landing pads, access roads, 
parking areas, fencing, and lighting would be constructed. A fire break 
would be cleared along the perimeter fence to prevent the spread of 
fire on or off the launch site. The tallest building would be 
approximately 26 meters (84 feet) high, and would be located 8 
kilometers (5 miles) to the east of State Highway 54. Portions of the 
facility may be visible to motorists traveling on Highway 54, but the 
proposed construction and operation of the facility would not result in 
a significant impact on visual resources.


    Construction activities and traffic noise would temporarily 
increase the ambient noise levels at the proposed launch site. Such 
activities could potentially create individual noise sources ranging 
from 70 to 100 A-weighted decibels (dBA) at 30.5 meters (100 feet) from 
the activities. The construction-related noise could last approximately 
12 months but would not be appreciable off site given the size of the 
property and the distance of the construction activities from the 
surrounding population.
    The nearest public access to the launch and landing platforms would 
be approximately 8.5 kilometers (5.3 miles) away on Highway 54. Launch 
noise at that location would be approximately 85 dBA. The nearest 
residence is approximately 10.9 kilometers (6.8 miles) away and would 
experience slightly less than 85 dBA. The duration of launch noise 
would be approximately one minute, with the peak noise lasting from 5 
to 15 seconds after launch. The nearest population center, Van Horn, is 
approximately 40.2 kilometers (25 miles) away. At this distance, the 
launch noise would be less than 65 dBA, the threshold of significance.
    Because Blue Origin's launch vehicle would ascend and descend 
vertically, sonic booms would propagate away from the Earth's surface 
during launch and towards the Earth's surface during descent. The peak 
overpressure, 7.8 kilograms per square meter (1.6 pounds per square 
foot), would occur at approximately 1.3 kilometers (0.8 mile) from the 
landing pad. At the closest location that would be occupied by workers 
or visitors, the overpressure would be 4.9 kilograms per square meter 
(1.0 pound per square foot), which approximates 85 dBA. At 12.9 
kilometers (8 miles) the sonic boom sound level would drop to about 80 
dBA, and at 37 kilometers (23 miles) the sonic boom would probably be 

Geology and Soils (Including Floodplains)

    Construction activities have the potential to disturb approximately 
308 hectares (760 acres) of soil. Of this total, approximately 90.3 
hectares (223 acres) are expected to be permanently covered with 
impermeable surfaces such as buildings and parking areas. Because of 
the clay content of the site soils, it may be necessary to strip 0.3 to 
1.2 meters (1 to 4 feet) below existing grade prior to construction of 
the facilities. Depending on the depth of excavation, the volume of 
soil excavated would range from approximately 10,930 to 43,800 cubic 
meters (14,300 to 57,300 cubic yards).
    Soil erosion due to runoff and wind would be of concern during 
construction. Best construction management practices would be employed 
to limit soil loss below significant levels. The proposed site would 
not be located in the 100-year floodplain.

Socioeconomics (Including Natural Resources and Energy Supply)

    Construction would require a monthly average of approximately 45 
workers, which would help to stimulate the local economy and would 
create a small number of additional indirect jobs. The economic benefit 
would be small; however, because the bulk of the construction-generated 
wages would be spent outside the area of the proposed launch site. 
Operations would require approximately 20 to 35 personnel. The 
additional employment opportunities created by the proposed action 
would represent an increase of less than one percent in the region's 
labor force.
    The proposed action does not create any major changes that would 
have a measurable effect on local supplies of energy or natural 
resources. The proposed action does not require the use of unusual 
materials or materials in short supply.

Traffic and Transportation

    State Highway 54 would be the road most impacted by construction 
activities. It is the only access to the construction site and is an 
infrequently used highway. During the peak period of construction, 
approximately 70 construction workers would be commuting to the site. 
The monthly average construction workforce is expected to be 
approximately 45. In addition there would be deliveries of equipment, 
supplies, and building materials on a daily basis. Highway 54 is 
expected to undergo improvements at the beginning of 2006; therefore, 
no deterioration of the highway should occur.
    During facility operations, the commuting workforce would be 
approximately 20 to 35 workers. During launches, customers and other 
visitors would be visiting the site. Shipments of rocket propellants 
would be needed to fuel the launch vehicles. There would also be 
shipments of gaseous helium and nitrogen. Diesel fuel would be needed 
for diesel generators. There would be other shipments of supplies and 
materials. However, the traffic from operations is expected to be less 
than that for construction. Existing roads would be well able to handle 
the traffic without congestion.

Water Resources (Including Wetlands and Wild and Scenic Rivers)

    It is expected that two new on site wells would be used to supply 
construction activities, if necessary. Salt Bolson aquifer drawdown for 
the construction withdrawal would be 3.6 centimeters (1.4 inches) at 
9.1 meters (30 feet) from the withdrawal well (conservatively assuming 
withdrawal from a single well) after one year of pumping; the drawdown 
would decrease to 0.083 centimeter (0.033 inch) at 1,609 meters (1 
mile) from the well. If it is necessary to screen new

[[Page 52607]]

wells in the more productive Capitan aquifer, then the drawdown for 
construction withdrawal would be 0.57 centimeter (0.22 inch) at 9.1 
meters (30 feet), decreasing to 0.087 centimeter (0.034 inch) at 1,609 
meters (1 mile) from the well. Impacts of this water withdrawal on 
other possible on site and off site water uses would not be a 
significant impact.
    Best management water control practices, including storage and 
control of liquids, would be employed for all construction activities 
in accordance with Texas State regulations. The launch site facility 
design would incorporate water management and spill containment 
processes to minimize potential impacts to water resources.
    There are no permanent, naturally occurring surface waters or open 
freshwater systems, wild and scenic rivers, or federally protected 
wetlands as defined by section 404 of the Clean Water Act on the 
proposed site. Therefore, there would be no impacts to any of these 


    The airspace above and around the launch site is used by commercial 
and military aircraft. Prior to scheduling flight countdown activities, 
Blue Origin would request the FAA's approval for exclusive use of the 
airspace directly above the launch site for a specific launch and 
recovery time window, expected to not exceed three hours. The steep 
flight ascent profile of the Blue Origin reusable launch vehicle 
ensures that at no time in any nominal ballistic trajectory would the 
vehicle's ground track depart from the boundaries of the Corn Ranch.

Environmental Justice

    Because construction and operations impacts would not significantly 
impact the surrounding population, and no minority or low-income 
populations would be disproportionately affected, no disproportionately 
high and adverse impacts would be expected on minority or low-income 

Health and Safety

    Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, it was estimated that 
during construction, 1.8 total lost workdays, no fatalities, and 3.8 
total recordable cases of injury, illness, or death could be expected 
during the 12-month construction period. Using the same statistical 
data it was estimated that 0.5 total lost workdays, no fatalities, and 
1 recordable case of injury, illness, or death could be expected from 
the operation of the Blue Origin facility.
    The proposed launch site is expected to have very limited 
occurrence of hazardous materials and waste, and thus there would be 
minimal safety and health risks to workers or members of the public 
associated with the proposed Blue Origin site. Because there are no 
health impacts expected to members of the public (adults or children) 
from the operation of the proposed launch site, the requirements of 
Executive Order 13045, ``Protection of Children from Environmental 
Health Risks and Safety Risks'' are not applicable to this action.
    During the operation of the vehicle, there is the possibility of an 
accident or off-nominal situation. In the majority of foreseeable off-
nominal scenarios, the crew capsule, abort module, and propulsion 
module would all land within the perimeter fence of the launch site. In 
some rare cases, the vehicles may land outside the fence line. However, 
in nearly all cases, the vehicles would stay within the boundaries of 
private land controlled by Blue Origin and present no danger to the 
public. In the unlikely event the vehicles impact outside the privately 
controlled Blue Origin land, the surrounding properties consist of 
extremely sparsely populated rangeland. During any landing away from 
the landing pad, the potential exists for crushing vegetation and 
animals as the vehicle touches down to ground, fire, and, for the 
propulsion module and abort module, the dispersal of unused propellant.

Cumulative Impacts

    Cumulative impacts are the incremental impact of the actions when 
added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future action 
regardless of what agency (Federal or non-Federal) or person undertakes 
such other actions. (40 CFR 1508.7) The cumulative impacts analysis 
focused on only those past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future 
actions that have the potential to contribute to cumulative impacts. 
These actions include the operation of a marble mine in the Sierra 
Diablo Mountains, tourist traffic to Guadalupe Mountains National Park 
or Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and current commercial and military 
aviation activities within Culberson County airspace. These actions 
were analyzed for their potential to contribute to cumulative 
transportation and airspace impacts.
    The commuters to and from the marble mine, local and tourist 
traffic, and the projected number of vehicles at the proposed launch 
site would result in increased traffic along State Highway 54. 
Currently, approximately 180 vehicles use State Highway 54 each day. 
Under the proposed action, the total number of vehicles using State 
Highway 54 would increase to approximately 320 per day (13 vehicles per 
hour) during the peak construction phase and to approximately 230 per 
day (10 vehicles per hour) during the operations phase. Increases of 
this magnitude would not have a significant impact on local traffic or 
the normal flow of traffic on State Highway 54. Although a Level-of-
Service analysis has not been performed, traffic on Highway 54 can be 
characterized as free flow or Class A as defined by the National 
Research Council. Existing roads would be able to handle the proposed 
increase in traffic without congestion.
    Blue Origin launches would compete for airspace with current 
commercial and military aviation activities in the airspace about the 
launch site. Blue Origin would attempt to minimize this competition by 
appropriate timing of launches and coordination of overall air traffic 
with the FAA pursuant to a letter of agreement with the Albuquerque Air 
Traffic Control Center, resulting in a small cumulative impact.

Consistency With Community Planning

    The proposed action has been reviewed and has been found to be 
consistent with State and local planning objectives from the Texas 
State, Culberson County, and local community governments.

No Action Alternative

    Under the no action alternative, the FAA would not issue permits or 
licenses to Blue Origin for the conduct of launch operations in 
Culberson County, Texas. Blue Origin would not conduct RLV testing or 
launch operations at the proposed site and the goals set forth by the 
CSLA would not be advanced. As part of the no action alternative, the 
proposed site in Culberson County would remain private property. Blue 
Origin would be forced to identify other private property options or to 
reconsider association with State-sponsored spaceport facilities. For 
Blue Origin, these decisions could result in higher RLV development and 
operational costs, decreased operational capabilities, and delays to 
Blue Origin's proposed development schedules.


    An analysis of the proposed action has concluded that there are no 
significant short-term or long-term effects to the environment or 
surrounding populations. After careful and thorough consideration of 
the facts

[[Page 52608]]

herein, the undersigned finds that the proposed Federal action is 
consistent with existing national environmental policies and objectives 
set forth in Section 101(a) of NEPA of 1969 and that it will not 
significantly affect the quality of the human environment or otherwise 
include any condition requiring consultation pursuant to Section 
102(2)(c) of NEPA. Therefore, an EIS for the proposed action is not 

    Issued in Washington, DC on: August 29, 2006.
George Nield,
Deputy Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation.
 [FR Doc. E6-14741 Filed 9-5-06; 8:45 am]