Proposed KSC site raises concern with environmentalists

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Environmentalists are raising some concerns about a proposed launch and landing site in Florida for Space X.

The proposed 175-acre site would be at the north end of Kennedy Space Center, wedged between the historic pads built for moon rockets and Canaveral National Seashore.

Land next to the proposed site, including the habitat of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, is “one of the most important birding sites in Eastern North America,” Charles Lee, Audubon Florida’s director of advocacy, told the Orlando Sentinel.

The development of the site and future launches could also cause prolonged closures for roads leading to the beach.

Lee would not comment further, pending Audubon’s review of SpaceX’s plans. A formal and detailed study overseen by NASA of potential environmental impacts from the rocket pad is poised to start in early 2022. The environmental assessment by NASA will include public comment.

The addition of the launch and landing site for Space X’s Starship rockets would be the most significant change to the Kennedy Space Center since the mid-1960s, according to Tom Engler, director of center planning and development for KSC.

The idea of developing the area was given conceptual approval nearly a decade as part of an update of the space center’s master plan for growth.

At the time, the public response to the master plan was generally supportive since the center was in a lull with the retirement of the space shuttle program. Final approval for development of the site will hinge on the details of SpaceX’s proposal and the company’s ability to meet environmental and permitting obligations, Engler said.

“It’s a pretty exciting time that speaks well of the thought process that went into developing the master plan and we’ve been able to do this in a way that honors the past and catapults us into the future,” Engler said.