Environmental issues challenge the state’s space ambitions

As companies such as SpaceX drive the growing commercial space industry, states and counties across the country are proud to be the perfect place to launch satellites and other cargo into space.

“The demand for launches is increasing,” said James Cozy, executive director of the Global Spaceport Alliance, a membership organization that supports the planning and operation of such launch sites. “The spaceport infrastructure needs to grow to meet the demands there.”

Some local leaders are proposing or supporting plans to establish a spaceport in their area, hoping to harness their economic potential. Some states have established space-focused institutions tasked with supporting the development of the industry.

However, the proliferation of spaceport proposals in Georgia, Maine, and Michigan, far from the long-established federal launch sites in California and Florida, has led to sensitive habitats, public safety, and even drinking water. There is growing opposition to what can even be harmful. Critics warn that noise and light from the launch site can harm wildlife, and failure to launch can spread toxic substances and debris and cause wildfires. doing.

“The spaceport has become a fashionable economic development tool,” said Brian Gist, senior lawyer at the Southern Environmental Law Center, who opposes efforts to establish a launch site in Camden County, Georgia. “But not all locations are suitable for spaceport sites. We need to balance economic development with risks to the general public and to natural resources.”

Space experts say that innovation has reduced the cost of launching rockets, even though the miniaturization of electronic components has enabled much smaller satellites. This means more companies will have access to space for a variety of purposes, including mapping, internet access, weather forecasts, agricultural monitoring, environmental detection, and vehicle fleet tracking.

“In the past, [building a local spaceport] The launch site was unreasonable because it meant a large, expensive and unreliable rocket, “said George Neild, Deputy Director of Commercial Spaceflight at the Federal Aviation Administration, who now runs his own consulting business. Says. “We are seeing a move towards smaller satellites, smaller rockets, and more reliable and potentially reusable Space Launch Systems.”

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is leading the commercialization of space, and many local officials want to attract the company’s Starbase production and launch site (more than 1,600 employees) in Bokachika, Texas. We consider it a type of economic engine. .. However, Starbase also represents the fear of some environmental groups.

According to a document released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month, SpaceX’s activities could reduce endangered plovers in the habitat around the facility, which could also harm sea turtles and other plovers. .. Environmental groups cautioned against these findings and criticized the authorities for inadequate mitigation requirements. After more than a year of environmental review, FAA will announce a decision on its proposal to launch a large lift starship rocket later this month.

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