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Sun, Apr 19, 2009

Jacksonville Spaceport Another Step Closer To Reality

FAA Approves Environmental Impact Study

The licensing process for construction of a commercial spaceport at Jacksonville's Cecil Field that could launch up to 52 sub-orbital space flights annually has moved another step forward with the Federal Aviation Administration's release of a favorable Environmental Assessment of the site.

According to The Jacksonville Business Journal, the FAA study found that no significant environmental impacts would be created by locating a commercial spaceport at Cecil Field. The results put the Jacksonville Aviation Authority closer to receiving a Launch Site Operator License from the FAA.

The approval required the FAA to look at potential federal policy violations, safety issues, and environmental issues, including noise. The public's objection to excessive noise at Cecil Field is the reason the Navy stopped using the former military base altogether.

"It's all about safety of the uninvolved public," said FAA spokesman Hank Price. Since the FAA started overseeing commercial space flight in 1989, it has licensed about 170 launches, Price said, and has never had a public casualty or significant property damage.

As ANN reported, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority initiated the licensing process after a 2006 Florida Space Authority report said Cecil Field is "the best airport for aircraft-like launch vehicles." The reusable spacecraft launched from the site would take off horizontally, rather than vertically.

The next hurdles to be faced in the process include a public comment period which will end May 20 and a public hearing slated for May 14 at the Cecil Commerce Center.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.jaa.aero

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