[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 69 (Tuesday, April 10, 2012)]
[Pages 21619-21620]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-8556]



Federal Aviation Administration

Office of Commercial Space Transportation; Notice of Intent To 
Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Open a Public Scoping 
Period, and Conduct a Public Scoping Meeting

AGENCY: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the lead Federal 

ACTION: Notice of Intent to Prepare an EIS, Open a Public Scoping 
Period, and Conduct a Public Scoping Meeting.


SUMMARY: This Notice provides information to Federal, State, and local 
agencies, Native American tribes, and other interested persons 
regarding the FAA's intent to prepare an EIS for Space Exploration 
Technologies' (SpaceX's) proposal to launch the Falcon 9 and Falcon 
Heavy orbital vertical launch vehicles from a private site located in 
Cameron County, Texas. Under the Proposed Action, SpaceX proposes to 
construct a vertical launch area and a control center area to support 
up to 12 commercial launches per year. The vehicles to be launched 
include the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy (up to two per year), and a variety 
of smaller reusable suborbital launch vehicles. SpaceX would be 
required to apply for the appropriate launch licenses and/or 
experimental permits to be issued by the FAA. The FAA will prepare the 
EIS in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 
(NEPA; 42 United States Code [U.S.C.] 4321 et seq.), the Council on 
Environmental Quality Regulations for Implementing the Procedural 
Provisions of NEPA (40 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] parts 1500-
1508), and FAA Order 1050.1E, Change 1, Environmental Impacts: Policies 
and Procedures, as part of its licensing and permitting process.

DATES: The FAA invites interested agencies, organizations, Native 
American tribes, and members of the public to submit comments or 
suggestions to assist in identifying significant environmental issues 
and in determining the appropriate scope of the EIS. The public scoping 
period starts with the publication of this notice in the Federal 
Register. To ensure sufficient time to consider issues identified 
during the public scoping period, comments should be submitted to Ms. 
Stacey M. Zee, FAA Environmental Protection Specialist, by one of the 
methods listed below no later than May 30, 2012. All comments will 
receive the same attention and consideration in the preparation of the 

ADDRESSES: Comments, statements, or questions concerning scoping issues 
or the EIS process should be mailed to: Ms. Stacey M. Zee, FAA 
Environmental Protection Specialist, SpaceX EIS c/o Cardno TEC Inc., 
275 West Street, Suite 110, Annapolis, MD 21409. Comments can also be 
sent by email to [email protected] or by fax to (410) 990-



    The FAA is preparing an EIS to analyze the potential environmental

[[Page 21620]]

impacts of SpaceX's proposal to launch orbital and suborbital launch 
vehicles from a private site in Cameron County in southern Texas. The 
EIS will consider the potential environmental impacts of the Proposed 
Action and reasonable alternatives, including the No Action 
Alternative. The successful completion of the environmental review 
process does not guarantee that the FAA would issue launch licenses 
and/or experimental permits to SpaceX. The project must also meet all 
FAA safety, risk, and indemnification requirements.

Proposed Action

    The Proposed Action is for the FAA to issue launch licenses and/or 
experimental permits to SpaceX that would allow SpaceX to launch the 
Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy orbital vertical launch vehicles and a 
variety of reusable suborbital launch vehicles from a launch site on 
privately-owned property in Cameron County, Texas. The Falcon 9 orbital 
vertical launch vehicle is a medium-lift class launch vehicle with a 
gross lift-off weight of approximately 1,000,000 pounds (lbs) with a 
maximum length of 230 feet (ft). The Falcon 9 uses liquid oxygen (LOX) 
and highly refined kerosene, also known as rocket propellant-1 or 
refined petroleum-1 (RP-1), as propellants to carry payloads into 
orbit. The Falcon Heavy is similar to the Falcon 9, except it has an 
additional two boosters ``strapped on,'' each booster being almost 
identical to the Falcon 9 first stage core. The Falcon Heavy is a heavy 
lift class launch vehicle with a gross lift-off weight of approximately 
3,400,000 lbs. It has an overall maximum length of approximately 230 
    A reusable suborbital launch vehicle could consist of a Falcon 9 
Stage 1 tank with a maximum propellant (RP-1 and LOX) load of 
approximately 6,900 gallons.
    As part of the Proposed Action, SpaceX proposes to construct a 
vertical launch area and a control center area. The proposed vertical 
launch area site is currently undeveloped and is located directly 
adjacent to the eastern terminus of Texas State Highway 4 (Boca Chica 
Boulevard) and approximately 3 miles north of the Mexican border on the 
Gulf Coast. It is located approximately 5 miles south of Port Isabel 
and South Padre Island. At the vertical launch area, the new facilities 
required would include: an integration- and processing-hangar, a launch 
pad and stand with its associated flame duct, propellant storage and 
handling areas, a workshop and office area, and a warehouse for parts 
    The control center area would be located inland to the west of the 
vertical launch area and would include: A control center building and a 
payload processing facility; it might also include a launch vehicle 
preparation hangar and satellite fuels storage. All facilities would be 
constructed on private land owned or leased by SpaceX. The development 
of access and supporting utility infrastructure for the vertical launch 
area and the control center area may occur on lands outside that which 
is owned or leased by SpaceX.
    Operations would consist of up to 12 launches per year with a 
maximum of two Falcon Heavy launches. All Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy 
launches would be expected to have commercial payloads, including 
satellites or experimental payloads. In addition to standard payloads, 
the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy may also carry a capsule, such as the 
SpaceX Dragon capsule. All launch trajectories would be to the east 
over the Gulf of Mexico.
    The potential environmental impacts of all proposed construction 
activities will be analyzed in the EIS, in addition to the impacts from 
operating the facilities and launching orbital and suborbital launch 
vehicles. The EIS will evaluate the potential environmental effects 
associated with: air quality; noise and compatible land use; land use, 
including Section 4(f) properties and Farmlands; coastal resources; 
biological resources, including threatened and endangered species; 
water resources, including surface waters and wetlands, groundwater, 
floodplains, and water quality; historical, architectural, 
archaeological, and cultural resources; light emissions and visual 
resources; hazardous materials, pollution prevention, and solid waste; 
infrastructure and utilities; and socioeconomics, environmental 
justice, and children's environmental health and safety. The analysis 
will include an evaluation of the potential direct and indirect 
impacts, and will account for cumulative impacts from other relevant 
activities in the area of Cameron County, Texas.


    Alternatives under consideration include the Proposed Action and 
the No Action Alternative. Under the No Action Alternative, the FAA 
would not issue a license or experimental permit to SpaceX. Based on 
comments received during the scoping period, the FAA may propose 
additional alternatives.

Scoping Meetings

    A public scoping meeting will be held to solicit input from the 
public on potential issues that may need to be evaluated in the EIS. 
The scoping meeting will be held on May 15, 2012 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., 
at the International Technology, Education and Commerce Center (ITEC 
Center), located at 301 Mexico Blvd. G-1, Brownsville, Texas 78520. The 
meeting format will include an open-house workshop from 5 p.m. to 6 
p.m. The FAA will provide an overview of the environmental process from 
6 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. followed by a public comment period from 6:15 p.m. 
to 8 p.m.

    Issued in Washington, DC on April 3, 2012.
Glenn Rizner,
Deputy Manager, Space Transportation Development Division.
[FR Doc. 2012-8556 Filed 4-9-12; 8:45 am]