NASA Environmental Impact Statement
Notice of Intent 96-118

[Federal Register: October 7, 1996 (Volume 61, Number 195) [Notices] [Page 52467-52469] From the Federal Register On-line via GPO Access []

[Notice 96-118]
National Environmental Policy Act
X-33 Program: Vehicle Design and Flight Demonstration

AGENCY: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) and conduct scoping for the development and testing of the X-33 vehicle.

SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended (42 U.S.C. 4231 et seq.), the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of NEPA (40 CFR Part 1500-1508), and NASA policy and (14 CFR Part 1216 Subpart 1216.3), NASA intends to prepare EIS for Phase II of the X-33 Program (hereinafter referred to as the "Program''), which would involve development and demonstration of the X-33 test vehicle. The EIS will address environmental issues associated with the fabrication, assembly, testing, and preparation of the flight operations and landing sites associated with the X-33 technology demonstrator spaceplane. The purpose of the proposed test program is to demonstrate the feasibility of technology which could result in commercially viable Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLV's) with certain aircraft-like operational characteristics. The proposed Phase II of the Program would involve final design, assembly and testing the X-33 vehicle by the year 2000.

Flight operations and landing site alternatives are under consideration to satisfy flight testing requirements. The flight test program would require short-range, mid-range, and long-landing sites remote from the flight operations (i.e., vehicle takeoff) site at distances of approximately 160, 640, and 1,360 kilometers (km) (100, 400, and 850 miles (mi)) respectively. The alternative sites for the proposed flight operations are located Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB) near Lancaster, California. Alternative landing sites for the flight test activities are being considered in the states of California, Utah, Montana, and Washington.

NASA is the lead agency in the preparation of the EIS. It is anticipated that components of the U.S. Department of Defense, the of Land Management, and the Federal Aviation Administration will act as cooperating agencies.

DATES: Interested parties are invited to submit comments on or before November 29, 1996, to assure full consideration during the scoping process.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be addressed to Dr. Rebecca C. McCaleb, Director, Environmental Engineering and Management Office, Code AE01, Marshall Space Flight Centers, Alabama 35812.

In addition, comments may be sent Dr. McCaleb electronically at ( or by facsimile at 205-544-8259.

Information repositories will be maintained at the following locations:

oNASA Headquarters, Library, Room 1J20, 300 E Street SW, Washington DC 20546 oNASA, Marshall Space Flight Center, Library, Building 4200, Huntsville, AL 35812 oKern County Library, Boron Branch, 27070 Highway 5, Boron, CA oKern County Library, Ridgecrest Branch, 131 East Las Flores Street, Ridgecrest, CA 93555. oLos Angeles County Library, Lancaster Branch, 1150 West Avenue, Lancaster, CA 93524. oPalmdale City Library, 700 East Palmdale Boulevard, Palmdale, CA 93550. oSan Bernadino County Library, Barstow Branch, 304 East Buena Vista, Barstow, CA 92311. oGreat Falls Public Library, 301 2nd Avenue North, Great Falls, MT 59401. oMoses Lake Library, 418 East 5th Street, Moses Lake, WA 98837. oDugway Proving Grounds Library, 5124 Kisstler Avenue, Dugway, UT 84022 oTooele Library, 47 East Vine Street, Tooele, UT 84074. oSalt Lake City Library, 209 East 500 South, Business/Science Department, Salt Lake City, UT 84111.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Dominic A. Amatore, Deputy Director, Public Affairs Office, Code CA01, Marshall Space Flight Center AL 35812, 205-544-6533. His office will ensure that the appropriate source of information is provided.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The key objectives of the X-33 Design and Flight Demonstration Program include:

oReduce business and technical risks to privately financed development and operation of a next generation space transportation system through ground and flight tests of a spaceplane technology demonstrator. oEnsure that the X-33 design and major components are usable and scaleable to a full scale, single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) RLV oDemonstrate "aircraft like'' operations such as reusability and affordability. oDemonstrate autonomous capability (i.e., vehicle does not have a pilot or onboard flight crew but is controlled by onboard flight management system vehicle is tracked by telemetry and on systems; and intervention capability to modify trajectory is maintained at the flight site) from takeoff to landing. oVerify operability and performance in "real world'' environments.

The X-33 test vehicle is planned as an approximately one-half scale reusable spaceplane. The vehicle would takeoff in a vertical position and use conventional runways to land horizontally. The X-33 vehicle would consist of a lifting body airframe with two cryogenic liquid propellant tanks (liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX)) placed within the aeroshell, and would use two linear aerospike main engines. Water would be the primary product of the LOX/LH2 combustion. The entire spaceplane (with all fuel tanks and engines) would takeoff and land as a single unit. The flight profile includes takeoff with engine burn until flight speed and altitude objectives are reached; at that point, the engines would cut off.

The flight test plan to meet the Program objectives would involve flights of approximately 160, 640, and 1,360 km (100, 400, and 850 mi). During the landing sequence, the spaceplane would glide to the landing site in an unpowered manner. Flight tests would involve speeds of up to Mach 15 and altitudes up to approximately 75,800 meters (250,000 feet). None of the X-33 tests flights would achieve Earth orbit. Ground operations and servicing (e.g., checkout, refueling, etc.) would be conducted with "aircraft like'' procedures and systems.

The test flight program is planned to be conducted in three stages, with all takeoffs occurring from the same flight operations site. The three stages would involve the incremental expansion of distance and speed referred to as the "flight envelope expansion'' which allows the development program to minimize risk while achieving test objectives. The three stage approach would necessitate short-range, mid-range, and long-range landing sites to achieve maximum speeds of Mach 4, 12, and 15, respectively. After each test flight, the X-33 would be ferried back to the takeoff site by a Boeing 747 aircraft in a manner similar to that used for the transport of Space Shuttle orbiters. The test program is currently baselined for a combined total of 15 flights.

Alternatives to be considered for this proposal include, but are not limited to:

oAlternative flight operations (takeoff) sites oShort-range landing sites oMid-range landing sites oLong-range landing sites

The "no action'' alternative which defines the baseline conditions would prevail in the absence of the X-33 test program.

Three locations within EAFB are the reasonable alternatives being considered for the flight operations site. Reasonable short-range landing sites being considered are Silurian Lake, a dry lake bed, northeast of Barstow, California; and China Lake Naval Weapons Center, near Ridgecrest, California. The baseline alternative for the mid-range landing site is Michael Army Air Field at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah. Reasonable long-range landing sites being considered are Port of Moses Lake, Washington; and Malmstrom Air Force Base near Great Falls, Montana. Analyses conducted to date indicate that other potential flight operations and landing sites are inadequate to meet the requirements of the Program. The "no action'' alternative (i.e., absence of the X-33 Program) would mean that the RLV Program, as planned, could not proceed, resulting in continued reliance on existing U.S. Government owned or controlled space launch vehicles, such as the Space Shuttle and expendable launch vehicles; and/or space launch vehicles owned and operated by foreign governments.

The EIS will consider the potential environmental impacts associated with the test program and related construction and modification of facilities. An initial assessment of potential environmental impacts indicates that the EIS should focus on sonic booms; potential effects on cultural resources, and threatened and endangered species; on-range and off-range flight test paths; and environmental impacts at the reasonable flight operations and landing site alternatives.

Public scoping meetings will be held at the following dates and locations:

oMonday, October 21, 1996; 7:00 p.m. Social Rehabilitative Services Auditorium, Sanders Avenue, Helena, MT 59601. oTuesday, October 22, 1996: 6:00 p.m. Great Falls High School, 1900 Second Avenue, South, Great Falls, MT 59405. oThursday, October 24, 1996; 7:00 p.m. Washington State National Guard Armory, 6500 32nd Avenue, N.E., Moses Lake, WA 98837. oMonday, October 28, 1996; 7:00 p.m. Dugway Post Theater, US Army Dugway Proving Grounds, Dugway, UT 84022. oTuesday, October 29, 1996; 7:00 p.m. Tooele Senior Center, 59 East Vine Street, Tooele, UT 84074. oWednesday, October 30, 1996; 7:00 p.m. Quality Inn Airport, 5575 West Amelia Earhart Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84116. oTuesday, November 12, 1996; 7:00 p.m. Best Western Antelope Valley Inn, 44055 North Sierra Highway, Lancaster, CA 93534. oWednesday, November 13, 1996; 7:00 p.m. Carriage Inn, 901 North China Lake Boulevard, Ridgecrest, CA 93555. oThursday, November 14, 1996; 7:00 p.m. West Boron Elementary School 12300 Del Oro, Boron, CA 93516. oSaturday, November 16, 1996; 10:00 a.m. Holiday Inn, 1511 East Main Street, Barstow, CA 92311.

Written public input and comments on environmental impacts associated with the proposed Program, including, but not limited to, flight operations and landing site options, as well as related environmental concerns, are hereby solicited.

Dated: October 1, 1996.
Benita A. Cooper,
Associate Administrator for Management Systems and Facilities.
[FR Doc. 96-25643 Filed 10-4-96; 8:45 am]

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