[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 19 (Friday, January 30, 2009)]
[Pages 5715-5718]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-1974]



Federal Aviation Administration

Finding of No Significant Impact

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

ACTION: Notice of environmental finding document: finding of no 
significant impact.


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 
    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

[[Page 5716]]

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 
    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.


    Launches of launch vehicles and reentries of reentry vehicles must 
be licensed by the FAA pursuant to 49 U.S.C. Sections 70101-70121, the 
Commercial Space Launch Act. Issuing a launch or reentry license is a 
Federal action requiring environmental analysis by the FAA in 
accordance with NEPA, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. Upon receipt of a complete 
license application, the FAA must evaluate the information and 
determine whether to issue a launch or reentry license to SpaceX, as 
appropriate. The FAA would use the analyses in the Falcon Launch 
Vehicle Program EA as the basis for the environmental determination of 
the impacts to support licensing launches of the Falcon 1 launch 
vehicle or the Falcon 9 launch vehicle from CCAFS and/or the reentry of 
the Dragon reentry vehicle. The issuance of a FONSI does not guarantee 
that a license will be issued by the FAA for the launch of the Falcon 
launch vehicles or the reentry of the Dragon capsule. Each license 
application also must meet all safety, risk, and indemnification 

Proposed Action

    SpaceX is proposing to launch the Falcon 1 and the Falcon 9 launch 
vehicles and the Dragon reentry capsule from CCAF8. The Falcon 1 is a 
two-stage, light-lift launch vehicle designed to put small spacecraft 
into orbit. The vehicle uses liquid oxygen (LOX) and kerosene as 
propellants. Some payloads are expected to be loaded with small amounts 
of liquid or solid propellants for use in orbit after the launch 
flight. The first stage is recoverable and could be reused. The second 
stage is not reusable and is not intended to be recovered.
    The Falcon 9 is a two-stage, medium class, liquid launch vehicle 
designed to put space systems and satellites into orbit. Falcon 9 uses 
LOX and kerosene as propellants. The second stage and payloads on the 
Falcon 9 could use small quantities of LOX or kerosene or other 
propellants including nitrogen tetroxide (NTO), monomethylhydrazine 
(MMH), or other hydrazine propellants, and solid propellants. Both the 
first and second stages of the Falcon 9 are recoverable and could be 
    The Dragon capsule could be carried as a payload on the Falcon 9 
vehicle. The Dragon capsule is being developed to deliver cargo to the 
ISS. Following its mission to deliver cargo to the ISS, the Dragon 
would reenter the atmosphere on a pre-planned trajectory, would be 
tracked to a soft landing in the ocean, and would be recovered by a 
salvage vehicle. The capsule could be refurbished and reused. Locations 
in the Atlantic Ocean (off the east coast of Florida), the Pacific 
Ocean (off the coast of California), and the equatorial Pacific (near 
the Marshall Islands) are being considered as recovery zones.
    SpaceX has proposed several infrastructure improvements to CCAFS to 
support the proposed launch activities, including modifications to SLC 
40 and construction of a vehicle and payload processing facility. The 
potential environmental consequences of these connective actions are 
considered in this FONSI.
    Under the No Action Alternative, SLC 40 would not be modified and 
proceed towards planned demolition. SLC 40 would not be used by the 
Falcon Launch Vehicle Program to meet the National Space Transportation 
Policy's goal of providing low-cost and reliable access to space.

Environmental Impacts

    The following presents a brief summary of the environmental impacts 
described in the Falcon Launch Vehicle Program EA, which are 
incorporated by reference in this FONSI. This FONSI is based upon the 
impacts discussed in that EA. The potential impacts addressed in the EA 
have been analyzed in previous NEPA documents such as the 1998 Evolved 
Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Final EIS and 2002 NASA Routine 
Payload Final EA and were used as the ``generic standard'' for launch 
vehicles and spacecrafts. Specifically, the Dragon capsule design 
parameters fit within the ``generic'' spacecraft analyzed in the 
Routine Payload Final EA. Also, the 2005 Programmatic Assessment for 
Reactivation/Reuse of Launch Complexes on CCAFS document provided 
background information for environmental impacts associated with the 
reuse/reactivation of one or more SLCs and the construction of a 
possible new SLC based on currently known conditions. These documents 
were used to compare possible impacts of the Falcon Launch Vehicle 
    Air Quality: Any use of ozone-depleting substances would be in 
accordance with federal, state, and local laws regulating ozone-
depleting substance use, reuse, storage, and disposal. There would be 
no impact on stratospheric ozone. Generator emissions associated with 
payload processing would be regulated as stationary sources by the 
Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
    Emissions from launch vehicles would not substantially impact 
ambient air quality or endanger public health. Each launch would be 
considered a discrete event that would generate short-term impacts on 
the local air

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quality. Long-term effects resulting from the launches would not be 
expected because the launches would be infrequent and the resulting 
emissions would be rapidly dispersed and diluted by winds in the 
troposphere. The Falcon Launch Vehicle Program would not have an 
appreciable affect on PM2.5 standards under the current attainment 
status of CCAFS.
    Biological Resources: Site modifications would take place in a 
developed area and would not entail new ground disturbance. In 
addition, there would be no disturbance of wetlands because there are 
no wetlands within the boundary of SLC 40. Biological resource impacts 
would not be expected from the modification, construction, or use of 
proposed launch and support facilities. A United States Fish and 
Wildlife Service (USFWS) approved light management plan would be 
implemented prior to construction activities and activation of the 
launch facility to ensure sea turtles are not impacted.
    Launch activities could cause some small impacts near the launch 
pad associated with fire and acidic deposition, but impacts from the 
Falcon vehicles would be less than those from previous launch vehicles. 
Although Florida scrub jays, gopher tortoise, southeastern beach mice, 
indigo snakes and sea turtle nesting occur in the vicinity of SLC 40, 
post-launch monitoring conducted on previous launches concluded that 
launch impacts to these species are minimal. Additionally, sonic booms 
from launches are not expected to negatively affect the survival of any 
marine species. Exterior lighting at all facilities used for spacecraft 
processing at CCAFS would comply with established lighting policy to 
minimize disorienting effects on sea turtle hatchlings.
    Cultural Resources: SLC 40 is not eligible for listing on the 
National Register of Historical Places. It is not considered a historic 
complex, and there are no historic properties or known archeological 
sites located in the immediate vicinity. No significant impacts to 
known historic or archeological resources would be expected as a result 
of the Proposed Action.
    Geology and Soils: No unique geologic features of exceptional 
interest or mineral resources occur in the project area. Construction 
related to the Proposed Action would not affect geology and soils; nor 
would operation of the Falcon Launch Vehicle Program affect geology or 
soils in the vicinity of SLC 40. Potential wind and water erosion would 
be controlled by the development and implementation of a Storm Water 
Pollution Prevention Plan.
    Hazardous Materials and Waste: All hazardous materials associated 
with the Proposed Action would be handled and disposed of per the 
requirements established by the Occupational Safety and Health 
Administration (OSHA) and the Hazardous Materials Contingency Plan 
developed for the Falcon Launch Vehicle Program. Any materials 
remaining after completion of payload processing would be properly 
stored for future use or disposed of in accordance with all applicable 
regulations. All applicable federal, state, county, and USAF rules and 
regulations would be followed for the proper storage, handling, and 
usage of hazardous materials under the Falcon Launch Vehicle Program. 
Furthermore, the Proposed Action would not be expected to result in 
significant impacts on hazardous materials management or hazardous 
materials emergency response.
    Hazardous waste streams generated by the Falcon Launch Vehicle 
Program would be typical of other hazardous waste streams in Florida. 
The existing hazardous waste landfills would have sufficient capacity 
to handle the small amounts of hazardous waste expected to be generated 
under the Proposed Action. Furthermore, no significant impacts on 
hazardous waste management would be expected.
    Health and Safety: Proposed refurbishment activities would comply 
with all federal OSHA regulations and all applicable Air Force 
Instructions and regulations on refurbishment safety, including AFI 32-
1023, Design and Refurbishment Standards and Execution of Facility 
Refurbishment Projects, and Air Force Occupational Safety and Health 
Standards (AFOSH). Therefore, health and safety impacts during 
refurbishment would not be significant.
    CCAFS range safety regulations ensure that the general public, 
launch area personnel, and foreign landmasses are provided an 
acceptable level of safety, and that all aspects of pre-launch and 
launch operations adhere to public laws. Range safety organizations 
review, approve, monitor, and impose safety holds, when necessary, on 
all pre-launch and launch operations. Health and safety impacts to 
personnel involved in propellant loading operations in the payload 
processing facilities would be minimized by adherence to OSHA and AFOSH 
regulations. The Proposed Action would not be expected to result in 
significant impacts on health and safety.
    Orbital Debris: Lower stages of the Falcon would burn out and 
splash down in the open ocean. Upper stages that achieve Low Earth 
Orbit would be programmed after spacecraft separation to burn residual 
propellants to depletion in a vector that would result in reentry in 
two to three months for a soft-water landing. Upper stages going to 
higher orbits are not subject to controlled reentry and would 
contribute to orbital debris. The contribution to orbital debris from 
the launch of Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 vehicles and spacecraft would not 
be expected to have a significant impact on the environment.
    Utilities: The existing water supply system at SLC 40 can support 
Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch requirements. The amount of solid waste 
generated under the Proposed Action would be minimal compared to the 
capacity of the on-base or approved off-base landfills. The electrical 
power needs of the Falcon Launch Vehicle Program are within the 
capacity of existing systems. Therefore, no significant impacts on 
water supply, solid waste management, or electrical power would be 
    Transportation: A maximum of 15 personnel and 15 daily vehicle 
round trips would support construction and refurbishment activities, 
which would not constitute a significant increase in traffic volumes on 
roadways in the vicinity of CCAFS. A maximum of 25 personnel and 25 
daily vehicle round trips would support launch operation activities, 
which would not constitute a significant increase in traffic volumes on 
key roadways within CCAFS areas.
    Land Use and Visual Resources: The Proposed Action would occur 
primarily in areas designated for space launch activities. Operations 
would be consistent with both the Base General Plan and the USAF 
mission at CCAFS. Activities at SLC 40 and surrounding areas would be 
in conformance with its designated use. Therefore, no significant land 
use impacts would be expected.
    SpaceX operational activities would have less visual impact than 
that of prior SLC 40 activities; therefore, no significant impacts 
within the flight range of the Falcon launch vehicles would be 
    Noise: There would be a temporary increase in ambient noise levels 
during construction and refurbishment activities. However, there are no 
residential areas or sensitive receptors in the vicinity of SLC 40. 
Refurbishment activities would not be expected to significantly impact 
endangered species potentially located at SLC 40. Hearing protection 
would be provided if sound levels exceed OSHA limits.
    Based on modeled engine noise levels for the Falcon 1, noise levels 
associated with the Proposed Action would not be

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expected to exceed the DNL threshold of 65 dBA in nearby residential 
areas or exceed the 85 dBA noise threshold limit value recommended for 
workers in an 8-hour day. Noise produced from Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 
launch vehicles would be sufficiently reduced by the deluge system and 
would not be expected produce negative affects beyond those that have 
already been analyzed and experienced under ongoing launch activities. 
Impacts on humans from sonic booms would not be significant under the 
Proposed Action.
    Socioeconomics: Construction and refurbishment activities would 
result in a temporary and minor increase in the number of on-base 
personnel. This increase would not represent a significant increase in 
the population or growth rate of the region, since most of the 
construction crew already live and work in the area.
    The addition of up to 25 workers at CCAFS to support the Proposed 
Action does not represent a significant increase in the population or 
growth rate of the region. The Proposed Action would not significantly 
affect the local housing market or result in the need for new social 
services or support facilities. The Proposed Action would not generate 
negative socioeconomic impacts in the region.
    Environmental Justice: Environmental impacts generated by 
operation, construction, and refurbishment activities for the Proposed 
Action would not be significant and would not adversely affect minority 
or low-income populations or children. The operation and refurbishment 
of the Proposed Action would not cause any environmental justice 
    Water Resources: Construction in the northeast quadrant of SLC 40 
would not substantially alter the existing drainage course and adverse 
impacts to natural drainage would not be expected. A Storm Water 
Erosion and Pollution Prevention Plan would be developed and 
implemented to minimize impacts from erosion. SpaceX would obtain all 
necessary permits. Proposed construction and refurbishment activities 
would not be expected to disturb wetlands or affect any floodplains.
    No impacts on surface water quality would occur from industrial 
wastewater from the deluge water system. Significant impacts would not 
be expected on jurisdictional waters of the United States from 
inadvertent discharge of deluge wastewater. When the first stage 
splashes down in the ocean, approximately 5 gallons of RP-l would be 
expelled and would dissipate within hours and would not significantly 
impact water quality. Water demands for the Proposed Action would be 
supplied by existing water distribution systems at CCAFS, and 
wastewater would be processed through existing wastewater handling and 
treatment systems at CCAFS. Water demands would have a negligible 
impact on these existing systems, and local and regional water 
resources would not be affected.
    Cumulative Impacts: Cumulative impacts to biological resources, air 
quality, and water resources were considered in the Falcon Launch 
Vehicle Program EA. Some vegetative damage could occur from occasional 
brush fires and/or heat from the launch and acid deposition in the 
near-field areas. The loss of tree and shrub species and an increase of 
grass and sedge species could occur. Far-field vegetation should 
recover between launches since far-field deposition would not occur in 
the same area after each launch. There should be no significant impacts 
on terrestrial wildlife from the exhaust cloud because the cloud would 
remain in anyone area for only a short period of time. The 
implementation of a light management plan to reduce beach lighting 
during the nesting season should reduce adverse impacts to sea turtles.
    Because the atmospheric emissions associated with launch programs 
are brief and sporadic, the long-term cumulative air quality impacts in 
the lower atmosphere would not be expected to be significant. Short-
term cumulative air quality impacts would not occur because launches 
for the various programs would not be conducted at the same time. The 
relatively small emissions associated with ground support operations 
would have little incremental and cumulative impact in an area that 
presently meets air quality standards. No long-term adverse air impacts 
would be expected from refurbishment activities. No cumulative impacts 
to water resources would be expected.
    Determination: An analysis of the Proposed Action has concluded 
that there would be no significant short-term or long-term effects to 
the environment or surrounding populations. After careful and thorough 
consideration of the facts 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 
the NEPA and other applicable environmental requirements and will not 
significantly affect the quality of the human environment or otherwise 
include any condition requiring consultation pursuant to Section I 
02(2)( c) of NEPA. Therefore, an Environmental Impact Statement for the 
Proposed Action is not required.

    Issued in Washington, DC on: January 15, 2009.
George Nield,
Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation.
[FR Doc. E9-1974 Filed 1-29-09; 8:45 am]