Science & Technology



Environmental concerns raised by rocket flights over San Diego County

Phil Diehl, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Science & Technology News

About 25% of all SpaceX rockets include a Defense Department payload, he said. The United States also benefits from the company's Starlink system of satellites.

"Starlink has been absolutely critical in the situation in Ukraine," he said, referring to the U.S. support of the country in its war with Russia.

Landings of the rocket's reusable first stage also will increase under the SpaceX plan, another concern for Central Coast residents.

While the launch of the rocket creates a thunderous roar, it does not create a sonic boom, Titus said. Only the return of the first stage, less than 10 minutes after liftoff, creates a sonic boom that can be heard from 80 miles away or farther, depending on atmospheric conditions.

The rocket stage can return to Vandenberg, or, if that's too far, it can land on a floating platform at sea. SpaceX also is asking the Coastal Commission to allow an expansion of the ocean landing zone to cover an area beginning at least 31 miles from the coast and extending out as far as several hundred miles, anywhere between the latitudes of Los Angeles and the middle of Baja California.

At sea, landings occur on a barge-like drone ship that is towed to the general area. Once there, it can remotely adjust its position.


Some of the commissioners questioned the need for so many launches, especially when most of the profits go to private companies such as SpaceX and Firefly Aerospace, a Texas-based aerospace company.

Some of the commissioners said they would prefer to see statistics for all the launches, including those by NASA, the Defense Department and private companies. They also noted that no one representing SpaceX was present at the meeting.

"I am concerned about the piecemealing of this," said Commissioner Ann Notthoff. "We can't really assess what this exponential growth is. We have to get a handle on that."


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