A draft environmental assessment supports a plan to land SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy first stages at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), subject to efforts to mitigate adverse impacts on wildlife.
The proposed location is Launch Complex 13 (LC-13), which was used to launch Atlas rockets from 1958 to 1978. The U.S. Air Force has since demolished the blockhouse, mobile launch tower and associated infrastructure.
The report found there would be little impact on the public because LC-13 is located far from populated areas. The site is close to SpaceX’s launch pads and vehicle processing facility, but it is a significant distance from most operations at CCAFS.
LC-13 was previously used as a launch complex, meaning the new facility would be compatible with the original land use, the assessment stated. Previous construction has already disturbed much of the land at the site, limiting the environmental impacts on the environment and nearby wildlife.
Construction of the landing facility would involve clearing approximately 48.3 acres of vegetation. The report found the clearing would adversely impact the Florida scrub-jay, southeastern beach mouse and eastern indigo snake.
The Air Force has recommended restoring approximately 100 acres of habitat elsewhere on the station over a five-year period to accommodate the species. The assessment also recommended a number of other mitigation measures, including limiting construction activities during the scrub-jay’s nesting season.
Under the plan, SpaceX would construct a square concrete landing pad measuring approximately 200 by 200 feet. The company also would construct four additional, 150-foot diameter concrete contingency pads to accommodate last-minute navigation and landing diversions.
The report noted that returning Falcon 9 first stages, which would land about 10 minutes after launch, would contain less than one percent of the fuel they had at liftoff. If flight termination was necessary, it would occur over the open ocean. The guidance, navigation, and control system of the Falcon 9 is triplicated, making it one-fault tolerant.
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