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9 July 2008

[Federal Register: July 9, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 132)]
[Page 39370-39371]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []



Federal Aviation Administration

Office of Commercial Space Transportation; Notice of Availability 
and Request for Comment on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) 
for the Spaceport America Commercial Launch Site, Sierra County, NM

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

ACTIONS: Notice of Availability, Notice of Public Comment Period, 
Notice of Public Hearings, and Request for Comment.


SUMMARY: In accordance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) 
regulations and FAA Order 1050.1E, Change 1, the FAA is announcing the 
availability of and requesting comments on the Draft EIS for the 
Spaceport America Commercial Launch Site, Sierra County, New Mexico. 
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Commercial Space 
Transportation is the lead Federal agency for the development of this 
EIS. Cooperating agencies include the Bureau of Land Management; the 
National Park Service; United States Department of the Army, White 
Sands Missile Range (WSMR); and the National Aeronautics and Space 
    The Draft EIS was prepared in response to an application for a 
launch site operator license from the New Mexico Spaceport Authority 
(NMSA). Under the Proposed Action, the FAA would issue a launch site 
operator license to NMSA to operate a launch facility capable of 
accommodating both horizontal and vertical launches of suborbital 
launch vehicles (LVs). The vehicles may carry space flight 
participants, scientific experiments, or other payloads. The proposed 
site is located in Sierra County, approximately 30 miles southeast of 
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and 45 miles north of Las Cruces, 
New Mexico. The Draft EIS addresses the potential environmental impacts 
of issuing a launch site operator license for horizontal launches only 
(Alternative 1), vertical launches only (Alternative 2), and the No 
Action Alternative.

DATES: The public comment period for the NEPA process begins with the 
publication of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's notice in the 
Federal Register on July 3, 2008. To ensure that all comments can be 
addressed in the Final EIS, comments on the draft must be received by 
the FAA no later than August 18, 2008.
    A paper copy and a CD version of the Draft EIS may be reviewed for 
comment during regular business hours at the following locations:
Hatch Public Library, P.O. Box 289, Hatch, NM 87937
Sunland Park Community Library, 984 McNutt Road, Bldg. F-10, Sunland 
Park, NM 88063
Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, 200 E Picacho Ave., Las Cruces, NM 
Valley Public Library, 136 N. Main, Anthony, NM 88021
Alamogordo Public Library, 920 Oregon Ave., Alamogordo, NM 88310
Mescalero Community Library, 101 Central Ave., Mescalero, NM 88340
Michael Nivision Library, 90 Swallow Place, Cloudcroft, NM 88317
Truth or Consequences Public Library, 325 Library Lane, Truth or 
Consequences, NM 87901
Truth or Consequences Public Library--Downtown, 401 Foch St., Truth or 
Consequences, NM 87901
    The FAA is holding a total of six public hearings on the Draft EIS. 
At these meetings, the FAA will present information about the Draft EIS 
and the environmental review process. The purpose of the public 
hearings is to afford the public and other interested parties the 
opportunity to comment on the economic, social, and environmental 
effects of the Proposed Action. Members of the public will be provided 
the opportunity to submit both written and oral comments. The FAA will 
transcribe oral comments. All comments received during the comment 
period will be given equal weight and be taken into consideration in 
the preparation of the Final EIS. The public hearings will be held at 
the following locations.
     August 5, 2008, 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Alamogordo City Hall 
(Commission Chambers), 1376 E. Ninth St., Alamogordo, NM (505-439-
     August 6, 2008, 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Truth or 
Consequences Civic Center, 400 West Fourth St., Truth or Consequences, 
NM (575-894-4400).
     August 7, 2008, 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Do[ntilde]a Ana 
County Government Center, 845 North Motel Blvd., Las Cruces, NM (575-
    The FAA has posted the Draft EIS on the FAA Web site at http:// In addition, CDs with the Draft EIS were sent to persons 
and agencies on the distribution list (found in Chapter 8 of the Draft 

ADDRESSES: Comments regarding the Draft EIS should be mailed to FAA 
Spaceport America EIS, c/o ICF International, 9300 Lee Highway, 
Fairfax, VA 22031. Comments also can be sent by e-mail to or fax to (703) 934-3951.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Under the Proposed Action, the FAA would issue 
a launch site operator license to NMSA that would allow the State to 
operate the proposed Spaceport America Commercial Launch Site for both 
horizontal and vertical suborbital LV launches. Horizontal LVs would 
launch and land at the proposed Spaceport America airfield. Vertical 
LVs would launch from Spaceport America and either land at Spaceport 
America or at WSMR. Rocket-powered vertical landing vehicles would land 
on either the Spaceport America airfield or a vertical launch/landing 
    In addition, the Proposed Action includes construction of 
facilities needed to support the licensed launch activities at the 
proposed launch site. Development of Spaceport America infrastructure 
would occur in two phases. The total area of land disturbed by 
construction would be approximately 970 acres; the total area of the 
final facilities footprint would be approximately 145 acres. The 
proposed Spaceport America boundary would encompass approximately 26 
square miles. This area currently contains both State and private land.
    Operational activities in support of the Proposed Action would 
begin as soon as the phased construction activities related to the 
Proposed Action were completed. The operational activities that may 
have environmental consequences and would support, either directly or 
indirectly, licensed launches include:
     Transport of Launch Vehicles to the Assembly or Staging 
     Transport and Storage of Rocket Propellants and Other 
     Launch, Landing and Recovery Activities for Horizontal 
     Launch, Landing and Recovery Activities for Vertical 
     Other Activities.
--Ground-Based Tests and Static Firings.
--X Prize Cup Events.
    The FAA identified two alternatives and the No Action Alternative 
to the

[[Page 39371]]

Proposed Action, which are considered in the draft EIS. Under 
Alternative 1, the FAA would consider issuing a launch site operator 
license only for the operation of a launch site to support horizontal 
launches. This is considered a feasible alternative because a 
significant number of launches of horizontal LVs are projected, and 
most X Prize Cup activities would be located at the airfield.
    Under Alternative 2, the FAA would consider issuing a launch site 
operator license only for the operation of a launch site to support 
vertical launches. This is considered a feasible alternative because a 
significant number of launches are projected to be of vertical LVs.
    Under the No Action Alternative, the FAA would not issue a launch 
site operator license to the NMSA. Subsequently, the need to support 
commercial launches and host the X Prize Cup would not be met by the 
State of New Mexico.
    Resource areas were considered to provide a context for 
understanding and assessing the potential environmental effects of the 
Proposed Action, with attention focused on key issues. The resource 
areas considered included compatible land use; Section 4(f) lands and 
farmlands; noise; visual resources and light emissions; historical, 
architectural, archaeological, and cultural resources; air quality; 
water quality, wetlands, wild and scenic rivers, coastal resources, and 
floodplains; fish, wildlife, and plants; hazardous materials, pollution 
prevention, and solid waste; socioeconomics, environmental justice, and 
children's environmental health and safety risks; and energy supply and 
natural resources. Construction impacts and secondary (induced) impacts 
are also considered. Additional analyses considered in the appendices 
include geology and soils; mineral resources; air space; health and 
safety; and transportation.

Commercial Space Transportation, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Room 
331, Washington, DC 20591, telephone (202) 267-9305; E-mail

    Issued in Washington, DC on July 2, 2008.
Michael McElligott,
Manager, Space Systems Development Division.1
 [FR Doc. E8-15545 Filed 7-8-08; 8:45 am]