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NASA Assessing Environmental Impacts For Wallops Flight Facility's Potential Future Operations
07.29.11
 
NASA is seeking public input in the preparation of an environmental study that will assess land use changes at its Wallops Flight Facility required to support current and potential future programs and missions supporting space programs with national importance and priority.

As part of the study process, a public meeting to gather concerns or project alternatives will be held on August 3 at the NASA Visitor Center from 6 to 8 p.m.

Wallops is the oldest active launch range in the continental United States and the only range completely under NASA management. For over 65 years, Wallops has flown thousands of research vehicles in the quest for information on the characteristics of airplanes, rockets, and spacecraft, and to increase the knowledge of the Earth's upper atmosphere and the near space environment.

The flight programs and projects currently supported by Wallops include sounding rockets, scientific balloons, manned and unmanned experimental aircraft, orbital tracking, next-generation launch vehicle development, expendable launch vehicles, and small and mid-size orbital spacecraft. To meet the safety and technical requirements of its various missions, many of Wallops’ primary launch support facilities reside on Wallops Island which is located directly on the Atlantic Ocean.

In keeping with the principles, goals, and guidelines of the 2010 National Space Policy, Wallops not only fulfills its own mission, but also provides unique services to NASA, commercial customers, defense, and academia. One guiding principle of the 2010 National Space Policy is for Federal agencies to facilitate the commercial space industry. The recent growth of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island is an example of Wallops’ commitment to making commercial access to space a reality.

Wallops supports aeronautical research, science technology, and education by providing other NASA centers and other U.S. government agencies access to resources such as special use (i.e., restricted) airspace, research runways, and launch pads. Additionally, Wallops regularly enables a wide array of U.S. Department of Defense research and development and training missions, including target and missile launches and aircraft development.

The Site-wide Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) will evaluate the potential environmental impacts from a range of reasonable alternatives that meet NASA’s need to ensure continued growth at Wallops while also preserving the ability to safely conduct its historical baseline of operations. Currently under consideration are two action alternatives and a No Action alternative.

Alternative One would support a number of facility projects ranging from new construction, demolition, and renovation; enlargement of the restricted airspace; addition of two rocket launchers on Wallops Island; replacement of the Wallops causeway bridge; maintenance dredging between the boat docks at the Main Base and Wallops Island; and the introduction of new opportunities and expansion of existing NASA and DoD programs at Wallops.

Alternative Two would include all activities described in Alternative One and also comprise additional construction projects and several new mission opportunities, including the introduction of manned space flight from Wallops and a land use exchange with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would enable the operation of a low-impact, temporary launch pad on north Assawoman Island in exchange for the conservation of a NASA-owned wooded, upland parcel south of the Wallops Visitor Center adjacent to the Wallops Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The scoping meeting will begin with an open house where the public will have the opportunity to interact with members of the project team through one-on-one discussions. Approximately 30 minutes into the open house, NASA will provide an overview of the environmental process and current Wallops operations.

Following the presentations, public comments may be provided. All oral comments and questions will be recorded for consideration in preparing the draft PEIS.

More information on the PEIS is available at the Environmental Office web site: http://sites.wff.nasa.gov/code250/site-wide_eis.html