Senators: NASA Should Use Existing Launch Areas, Not Wildlife Refuges

Florida’s two U.S. senators have urged NASA not to build a new commercial launch site in popular wildlife areas but to use existing launch locations instead, the Dayton News-Journal reports.

“There is great promise in the pursuit of a viable U.S. commercial space industry, and this can be achieved while respecting the existing and precious habitat of the Space Coast,” Mel Martinez wrote in a letter to NASA. His colleague, Bill Nelson, wrote a similar letter to the space agency this week.

The space agency is studying whether to build a new launch complex on one of two sites on north end of the Kennedy Space Center. The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore co-manage the areas.

The proposal has generated strong opposition from birdwatchers, fishermen and other locals who use the popular recreation areas. They fear the sites could be damaged by the rocket facility and closed to users.

One solution would be to situate the new launch complex at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where there are a number of abandoned launch facilities. Nelson’s letter indicates that Air Force Brig. Gen. Susan Helms, who oversees the station, is willing to work with NASA on finding a location for the facility.