May 10, 2012

FAA issues OK for SpaceShipTwo flights from Mojave

by Raphael Jaffe
Staff Writer

SpaceShipTwo mated to its carrier launch aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo.

May 4, the FAA Office of commercial Space Flight issued a finding of ‘no significant effects’ to the environment connected with up to 30 total launches and reentries per year of SpaceShipTwo, for a total of up to 150 launches and reentries of SpaceShipTwo between 2012 and 2016.

This estimation is a conservative number and considers potential multiple launches per day and potential launch aborts.

The FAA would issue experimental permits and/or launch licenses for the operation of SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, Calif. The Mojave Air and Space Port’s existing infrastructure would be used for takeoff and landing activities. Experimental permits would be valid for one year. Launch licenses would be valid for two years.

An analysis of the Proposed Action has concluded that there would be no significant short-term, long-term or cumulative effects to the environment or surrounding populations. Therefore, an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Action is not required.

The agency issued its finding in a new report, “Final Environmental Assessment for the Launch and Reentry of SpaceShipTwo Reusable Suborbital Rockets at the Mojave Air and Space Port and Finding of No Significant Impact.” The report is available on the Internet.

The FAA published a Notice of Availability of the Draft Environmental Assessment in the Federal Register March 13, 2012, which started a 30-day public review and comment period. Interested parties were invited to submit comments on environmental issues and concerns. The public comment period ended April 13, 2012. The FAA did not receive any public comments on the Draft EA. No substantive changes have been made to this Final EA.


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