SpaceX Proposes to Fill Florida Wetlands in a Wildlife Refuge to Build Launch Pad 49

CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. SpaceX, the aerospace company, wants to build a new launch site called LC-49 next to Canaveral National Seashore. The plan would include filling in the wetlands connected to the Mosquito Lagoon. 

Canaveral National Seashore was created by an act of Congress in 1975 and is a sanctuary for thousands of species of plants and animals. The beaches serve as nesting sites for giant loggerheads and green turtles and are home to many endangered species. The Seashore was created to preserve and protect the area. 

Approximately two-thirds of the park is owned by NASA, which is why SpaceX has asked NASA to conduct an Environmental Assessment to build a new launch site called LC-49. Management agreements between the agencies stipulate that security and operations for NASA are given priority over the management of other activities. 

NASA began operation in 1958, and the space industry changed the landscape of Brevard County due to thousands of people moving to the coast, bringing in excess development. A portion of land was set aside as a national wildlife refuge in 1964. 

The Space Industries Effects on Water Quality 

The Indian River Lagoon is an Estuary of National Significance affected by space industry activities. The water quality began to decline in the 1960s due to population growth, increased pollutants, and excess sewage. NASA started to identify and characterize contamination across the agency in the 1980s. Some of the contamination disposed of today through Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Open Burn Unit are arsenic, lead, selenium, potassium, titanium, magnesium, barium, vanadium, chromium, cadmium, copper, aluminum, and perchlorate.

Perchlorate is an ingredient used in solid rocket propellants. NASA has used perchlorate for decades. 
The remediation program also found concentrations of TCE as high as 300,000 parts per billion in groundwater at the Kennedy Space Center. The EPA considers less than 5 parts per billion safe for drinking water. TCE is known to be carcinogenic. 

The EPA does not track or monitor many chemicals like perchlorate. The space industry is not required to report to EPA when perchlorate is found at their facilities. 

In 2005, the EPA asked that groundwater be sampled for perchlorate near rock launch sites, but the sampling wasn't done because there is no federal standard for perchlorate. Perchlorate is often mixed with other more significant contaminants and often remediated in conjunction with these other contaminants. 

By 2012, scientists found that wildlife in the lagoon was developing tumors caused by contaminants. NASA also identified toxic PFAS chemicals in groundwater at the Kennedy Space Center that exceeded federal standards. The chemical was discovered in wildlife's blood at the space center and tested at the highest levels of toxic fluorinated chemicals ever measured in the species. PFAS is linked to a wide range of health effects, such as a weaker immune system, cancer, heart defect, increased cholesterol levels, liver and kidney damage, reduced fertility, and increased risk of thyroid disease. 

The accumulation of pollution and muck leads to algae blooms and the loss of wildlife. The space coast continues to see the devastating effects of excessive pollution in waterways after watching a record number of Florida manatees starve to death due to the loss of seagrass. 

The upper Indian River Lagoon near Titusville struggles with tidal flow, frequent algae blooms, and water quality issues. Environmentalists are worried that the proximity of this site to the lagoon makes it risky.  

The Effects of Destroying Wetlands

The habitats of the refuge include wetlands (both salt and fresh water).  Wetlands protect against floods and storms and safeguard endangered species. They are known as the kidneys of our environment as they filter out 90% of the most common pollutants, such as nutrients. Filtering polluted water helps keep Florida water fishable and swimmable. Coastal wetlands also help reduce coastal erosion during major storms. Lastly, they help moderate global climate conditions by storing carbon within their plant communities and soil instead of releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

Worries About Loss of Beach Access

The National Wildlife Refuge brings nearly 45 million visitors annually and generates 2.4 billion sales in regional economies. Playalinda Beach is a popular location for the public to view launches from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Station. Rocket launches often create shut down to public access areas for safety reasons. Residents fear that their access to the beach will close for months at a time or even permanently.

The Submitted Proposal

The 175-acre site would launch and land the company's Starship and Super Heavy launch vehicle. NASA and SpaceX are moving forward with the environmental analysis before concluding a potential agreement to develop the property. 

This proposal was submitted through the Land Use Notice of Availability (NOA) process to construct and operate a new launch complex and expand SpaceX's existing operation near Roberts Road. 

NASA will hold a Public Scoping period in mid-January 2022 to collect public input on the proposed action. The agency will provide study details at

The Kennedy Space Center Master Plan. Credit: NASA

Stay Informed

To subscribe to our mailing list to receive updates on this project, please email with the subject titled "Mailing List"

Additional Information and Sources: 

Fight for Zero

Our team brings passion and drive to take on environmental health challenges. Our mission is to inform, educate, share resources, and inspire action to protect natural resources.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post

Contact Form