28 June 2006


[Federal Register: June 28, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 124)]
[Page 36870]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Federal Aviation Administration

Office of Commercial Space Transportation; Notice of Availability 
and Request for Comment on a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for 
the Blue Origin West Texas Commercial Launch Site

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Commercial 
Space Transportation (AST) is the lead Federal agency for the 
development of this EA.

ACTION: Notice of availability and request for comment.


SUMMARY: In accordance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 
regulations, the FAA is announcing the availability of and requesting 
comments on the Draft EA for the Blue Origin West Texas Commercial 
Space Launch Site.
    Under the proposed action, the FAA would issue one or more 
experimental permits and/or licenses to Blue Origin to launch reusable 
launch vehicles (RLVs) \1\ on suborbital, ballistic trajectories. In 
addition, 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 EA evaluates potential impacts 
to the environment from the proposed activities. The FAA may use the 
analysis in the EA as the basis for making a determination to prepare 
an Environmental Impact Statement or a Finding of No Significant Impact 
regarding the issuance of a license and/or permit(s) to Blue Origin.

    \1\ RLVs are launch vehicles that have stages or components that 
can return to Earth and be recovered or reused. A suborbital rocket 
is a vehicle, rocket-propelled in whole or in part, intended for 
flight on a suborbital trajectory, and the thrust of which is 
greater than its lift for the majority of the rocket-powered portion 
of its ascent. (49 U.S.C. 70102(19)).

DATES: The public comment period for the NEPA process begins with 
distribution of the Draft EA. To ensure that all comments can be 
addressed in the Final EA, comments must be received by the FAA no 
later than July 27, 2006. The Draft EA is available for download at 
http://ast.faa.gov. A paper copy of the Draft EA can also be viewed at 

the Van Horn City County Library at 410 Crockett Street, Van Horn, 
Texas 79855.
    A public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 25, 2006 
at the Van Horn Convention Center at 1801 West Broadway, Van Horn, 
Texas 79855.
    Contact Information: Comments, statements, or questions concerning 
the Draft EA should be mailed to Mr. Doug Graham, FAA Environmental 
Specialist, FAA Blue Origin EA c/o ICF Consulting, 9300 Lee Highway, 
Fairfax, VA 22031. Comments can also be sent by e-mail to 
BlueOriginEA@icfi.com or by fax to 703-934-3951.

    Additional Information: Under the proposed action, the FAA would 
issue one or more experimental permits and appropriate licenses to Blue 
Origin to authorize Blue Origin to conduct the activities described in 
the EA. Blue Origin proposes to launch space flight participant-
carrying RLVs on suborbital, ballistic trajectories. To conduct these 
operations, Blue Origin proposes to construct a private launch site on 
privately-owned land in Culberson County, Texas.
    Blue Origin proposes to develop, launch, and land a suborbital RLV 
referred to as the New Shepard Reusable Launch System. Blue Origin 
proposes to develop the RLV incrementally, beginning with low-altitude 
vehicle testing, progressing to higher-altitude testing, and 
culminating with commercial flights.
    Blue Origin's proposed activities would include:

Construction of an RLV launch site and landing/recovery area,
Launch and landing/recovery operations,
Space flight participant training activities, and
Sustained commercial launch, flight, landing, and recovery of space 
flight participants.

    The FAA considered the no action alternative in addition to the 
proposed action in the Draft EA. Two alternatives were considered but 
dismissed. One alternative would use an alternative facility 
configuration, and another alterative would use a different plot of 
land in Culberson County. Different locations of the proposed facility 
layout within the proposed site boundaries were also considered and 
dismissed. Under the no action alternative, the FAA would not issue 
permits or licenses to Blue Origin to conduct launch operations in 
Culberson County, Texas. Blue Origin would not conduct RLV testing or 
launch operations, and the proposed site in Culberson County would 
remain private property.
    Potential impacts of the proposed action and alternatives were 
analyzed in the Draft EA. Potential environmental impacts of successful 
launches include impacts to the air resources, ecological resources, 
cultural/Native American resources, hazardous materials and hazardous 
waste management, health and safety, geology and soils, land use, 
noise, socioeconomics and environmental justice, transportation, visual 
and aesthetic resources, and water resources. Department of 
Transportation Section 4(f) lands are addressed as part of land use; 
floodplains, wetlands, and wild and scenic rivers are addressed as part 
of water resources; and natural resources and energy supply are 
addressed as part of socioeconomics. Potential impacts of the no action 
alternative would be the same as those described in the affected 
environment in the Draft EA. Potential cumulative impacts of the 
proposed action also are addressed in the Draft EA.
    Date Issued: June 16, 2006.

    Place Issued: Washington, DC.

Herbert Bachner,
Manager, Space Systems Development Division.
 [FR Doc. E6-10191 Filed 6-27-06; 8:45 am]