SpaceX Starship-Super Heavy Project at Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A

Project Updates

Proposed Action

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as the lead Federal agency intends to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of issuing a commercial launch Vehicle Operator License to SpaceX for the Starship-Super Heavy launch vehicle at Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida. SpaceX proposes to construct launch, landing, and other associated infrastructure at and in proximity to LC-39A. The proposal would also include Starship-Super Heavy launches at LC-39A; recoverable Super Heavy booster and Starship landings at LC-39A or on a droneship; and expendable Super Heavy booster and Starship landings in the ocean.  

SpaceX must obtain a vehicle operator license from FAA for Starship-Super Heavy launch and landing operations. Issuing a vehicle operator license and approving airspace closures is considered a major Federal action under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  In consideration of SpaceX’s revised proposal, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and FAA have determined that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is the appropriate level of NEPA analysis to address the adjusted scope of Starship-Super Heavy at LC-39A. SpaceX will prepare the EIS under the supervision of the FAA which will serve as the lead agency at NASA’s request. While the 2019 EA prepared by NASA provides an analytical baseline, the environmental impacts of these proposed changes to Starship-Super Heavy LC-39A development and operations will be specifically analyzed in this EIS. 

The EIS will consider the potential environmental impacts of the Proposed Action and the No Action Alternative. The successful completion of the environmental review process does not guarantee that the FAA would issue a Vehicle Operator License. The project must also meet all FAA safety, risk, and indemnification requirements for the appropriate license.

Scoping Period

Providing Public Comments

The FAA published the Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of issuing a commercial launch vehicle operator license to SpaceX for the Starship-Super Heavy launch vehicle at LC-39A at KSC, Florida on May 10, 2024, on the Federal Register

Publication of the NOI initiated the public scoping period. The FAA invites interested agencies, organizations, Native American Tribes, and members of the public to submit comments which will inform the FAA on the significant issues to be analyzed in depth in the EIS (e.g., range of actions, alternatives, environmental impacts). Comments, statements, or questions concerning scoping issues must be identified with FAA-2024-1395 and may be provided to FAA as follows:

  • Federal E-Rulemaking Portal:  https://www.regulations.gov. Retrieve the docket by conducting a search for “FAA-2024-1395” and follow the online instructions for submitting comments.  Please note that the FAA will post all comments on the Internet without changes, including any personal information provided.
  • By U.S. mail to Ms. Eva Long, FAA Environmental Protection Specialist, c/o Leidos, 2877 Guardian Lane, Virginia Beach, VA 23452.

The FAA encourages submitting comments electronically through the Federal E-Rulemaking Portal. If comments are submitted electronically, commenters do not need to also submit a hard copy. All comments received will be posted without change to https://www.regulations.gov. Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, be advised that your entire comment – including any personal identifying information you provide – may be publicly available at any time.  While you can request in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

To ensure sufficient time to consider issues identified during the public scoping period, comments should be submitted no later than June 24, 2024. All comments will receive the same attention and consideration in the preparation of the EIS.

Participating in Public Scoping Meetings

FAA will hold three IN-PERSON scoping meetings and one VIRTUAL public scoping meeting.  The meetings will allow the public to receive information on the Proposed Action, meet lead and cooperating agency representatives, and provide comments to the record. 

The IN-PERSON meetings will be held on June 12, 2024, and June 13, 2024.  

  • The June 12, 2024, meetings will be held from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. (Eastern) at the Radisson Cape Canaveral, 8701 Astronaut Blvd, Cape Canaveral, Florida 32920.  
  • The June 13, 2024, meeting will be held from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. (Eastern) at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, Florida 32953.
  • All meetings will consist of an open house information-station format wherein the FAA will provide information describing the purpose of the scoping meetings, project schedule, opportunities for public involvement, Proposed Action and alternatives summary, and environmental resource area summary.  Fact sheets will be made available containing similar information.  At any time during the meetings, the public will have the opportunity to provide verbal comments to a court reporter or written comments via a written comment form at one of several commenting stations.  English-Spanish translation services will be provided at the in-person meetings.

The VIRTUAL meeting will be held on June 17, 2024; 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. (Eastern);
the URL and call-in number for the meeting will be provided in advance on the FAA’s SpaceX Starship-SuperHeavy at Kennedy Space Center's project webpage.

  • The virtual meeting will consist of a closed-captioned auto-run presentation describing the purpose of the scoping meetings, project schedule, opportunities for public involvement, Proposed Action and alternatives summary, and environmental resource area summary.  Presentations will be run at the beginning of each hour. Members of the public may provide written comments via the chat function during the presentation and for the remainder of each hour.  Verbal comments up to three minutes can be given after the completion of each presentation.  A moderator will facilitate verbal comments.  English-Spanish translation services for verbal comments will be provided.  Both English and Spanish versions of the presentation will be made available to the public on FAA’s project website.

If any accommodation for the public meetings is needed, (such additional translation services) please submit a request by June 5, 2024, to the project email address: SpaceXStarship39AEIS@icf.com

Project Background

When fully operational, SpaceX proposes that the Starship-Super Heavy launch vehicle will offer a heavy lift platform that expands the company’s ability to execute the totality of its current and expected future customers’ requirements.  By providing a reusable launch vehicle, SpaceX proposes that the Starship-Super Heavy would deliver efficient access to space and enable cost-effective delivery of cargo and people to the moon and Mars.  Currently, SpaceX is conducting flight tests of the Starship-Super Heavy at Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, an exclusive use launch site that serves as SpaceX’s primary research, development, and flight test launch facility for the vehicle.

In September 2019, the NASA completed the Final Environmental Assessment for the SpaceX Starship and Super Heavy Launch Vehicle at KSC (“2019 EA”) to evaluate the potential environmental impacts resulting from construction and operations associated with utilization of LC-39A for the SpaceX Starship-Super Heavy launch vehicle in practical applications. LC-39A is a SpaceX-leased launch site located on northern KSC property and currently supports SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches. 

Within the context of the 2019 EA, the scope of the Proposed Action was defined as infrastructure development and Starship-Super Heavy operations.  Infrastructure development included construction of a launch mount, liquid methane farm, transport road, deluge water system, landing zone, and high-pressure gaseous commodity lines. Operations involved approximately 24 Starship-Super Heavy launches per year. NASA’s resultant Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) issued on September 19, 2019, concluded that the environmental impacts associated with Starship-Super Heavy infrastructure development and operations would not individually or cumulatively have a significant impact on the quality of the biological or physical environment.  SpaceX did not submit a vehicle operator license application for the Starship-Super Heavy launch operations at LC-39A subsequent to the completion of the 2019 EA; therefore, the FAA did not have a federal action to adopt NASA’s EA/FONSI. 

While the purpose and need for Starship-Super Heavy at LC-39A have not changed since the 2019 EA, the Starship-Super Heavy concept of operations has evolved from the original 2019 EA scope. SpaceX now proposes to construct additional launch infrastructure not previously contemplated in the 2019 EA; launch an advanced design of the Starship and Super Heavy vehicle; operate at a projected higher launch tempo; and land the Super Heavy booster at LC-39A in support of the reusability concept. Starship landings are no longer proposed to occur at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

  • The 2019 EA can be accessed here.
  • The 2019 FONSI can be accessed here.

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Last updated: Friday, May 10, 2024