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SpaceX launch plans worry rivals Blue Origin, ULA

SpaceX launch plans worry rivals Blue Origin, ULA

SpaceX Launch

SpaceX’s plans to launch its massive Starship rocket from Florida have raised concerns among rival companies Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance (ULA). In documents submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), both companies expressed worries about the potential impact of Starship’s launch operations on their activities on the Space Coast. Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, has called for the government to consider limiting the number of Starship launches and landings.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s CEO, responded to Blue Origin’s filing by calling it “an obviously disingenuous response” and accusing them of trying to hinder SpaceX’s progress through legal means. The FAA and SpaceX are currently preparing an environmental impact statement for the launches and landings of the Super Heavy booster and Starship rocket at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The US Space Force is also working with SpaceX on a similar review for Starship flights from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

During the review process, the FAA must consider how regular flights of the reusable Starship, potentially up to 120 launches per year, will affect other launch providers operating at Cape Canaveral. SpaceX aims to launch Starlink satellites, various customer payloads, and missions to support NASA’s Artemis lunar landings from these Florida launch pads.

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Concerns over Space Coast operations

Blue Origin emphasized that Starship-Super Heavy launches and landings are expected to have a more significant environmental impact than any other current launch system operating in the area. With its current configuration, Starship is the most powerful rocket in history, and SpaceX is developing an even larger version that will stand 492 feet tall and carry nearly 15 million pounds of propellant. ULA’s CEO, Tory Bruno, expressed concerns about the substantial footprint of the Starship, stating that the quantity of propellant requires a large evacuation zone whenever fueled, which could impact other facilities.

He also noted that weekly launches could have injurious sound levels reaching nearby towns. ULA’s launch pad for the Vulcan and Atlas V rocket is located less than 2.2 miles from Launch Complex 39A. The company stated that SpaceX’s proposal for up to 44 launches from LC-39A could result in significant airspace and ground closures, acoustic impacts at nearby operations, and the potential for debris, particulates, and property damage.

These hazards could prevent ULA from fulfilling its contracts to launch critical national security satellites for the US military. As the environmental review process continues, the FAA will consider the concerns raised by Blue Origin, ULA, and other stakeholders to determine the potential impact of Starship’s launch operations on the Florida Space Coast.

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