NASA To Build and Demolish

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By Linda Cicoira — NASA is proposing a construction and demolition project plan needed to ensure Wallops Flight Facility will become “the nation’s preferred provider of suborbital and small orbital research carriers and mission services,” according to the final environmental impact statement released this week. 

One possibility is offering commercial human spaceflight missions to travel into space along a suborbital flight path. While “commercial space tourism vehicles are largely in their developmental phases, WFF, which is relatively close to major metropolitan areas, could become a desirable test or operational site.”

NASA anticipates using “less energy …from the local utility provider.” And, positive economic impacts may occure from the proposals through tax revenue, job creation, and tourism, the report states.

There are also chances for sonic booms and “unlikely” rocket failure could cause “impacts to water resources … but clean-up efforts after the launch failure and restoration measures taken would prevent long-term effects to aquatic ecosystems.”

Projects include replacement of the causeway bridge to 70,000-square-feet from 2023 to 2025. The circa 1960 bridge is deteriorating. The new one would be constructed parallel to the existing one with the same causeway road for ingress and egress. 

“Concrete piles or pieces of concrete debris created during removal … and support piles would be loaded onto a barge, brought to shore, transferred to a dump truck, and hauled either to an on-site stockpile area or directly to a recycling facility.”

Maintenance dredging between the boat docks at the main base and Wallops Island are scheduled for between 2019 and 2023 and would include more than 5.7 million square feet of silt for 6.7 miles. “The placement of the dredged materials would be determined in the future.” Alternative dredging is also included in the plan.

Two options for the development of an LV launch pier pad on South Wallops Island were included. One plan put a launch pier pad in the nearshore waters of the Atlantic at the south end of Wallops Island. The other would involve a similar launch pier pad in Hog Creek on the opposite side.

A 35,000-square-foot commercial space terminal “hosting commercial partners whose missions focus on sending civilian scientists into space on commercial vehicles” would be built “on the east side of the WFF airfield (and) may include lodging, dining areas, and training facilities such as pools, classroom space, mission-specific training equipment, and other required facilities.”

A 187,500-square-foot runway extension is in the plans “to accommodate horizontal launch and landing vehicles.” The existing runway would be increased by 1,250 feet. A sounding rocket program building was also mentioned.

NOAA wants to erect a facilities support building, a consolidated logistics facility, a gatehouse, a gatehouse canopy, operations building addition, and a shipping and receiving building.

Navy projects were listed as a new DOD Standard Missle-3 vertical launch system pad, a new DOD Emergency Ship Salvage Material Launch System Pad and blockhouse, renovation of a sensor test site, a new radar and computer facility for Aegis, renovation of Navy support facility, a ship self-defense system addition, and renovation of a reliability rotary UPS/generator.

“Advances in DoD technology and training systems have resulted in increased activity in the Navy assets area,” the report stated. “Navy training systems often require dedicated launch areas and pads to execute training missions.”

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport wants a new deep-water port and operations area, a launch pad, a launch pier, a project support building, and a processing facility.

Demolitions at NASA are listed for the central heating plant, health/quality verification lab, ATC tower, source evaluation board building, air support, packing and crating facility, optical lab, cafeteria/photo lab/gift shop, post office, groundwater remediation facility, management education center, reproduction facility building telecommunications facility building WFF administration, empty drum storage, supply warehouse compressed air distribution facility, rain simulator, garage visitor center, and credit union. 

Other demos would be the radar station, sewer ejector station, storm drainage pump, rocket flight hardware storage, fire pump house, former coast guard station, rocket Moto storage facility, fire department support building, paint shop, paint shop storage, electrical storage building, a performance test facility, block house 1, moveable launch shelter building, launch control building, block house 3, terminal cubical, cable terminal, fuel storage magazine, island radar control building, and camera stand.

Most of the new construction and demolition dates are to be determined.

The plan “considers several new operational and mission activities including expansion of Department of Defense programs such as the Navy’s standard missile rocket, SM-3; introduction of a new weapons system currently under development comprised of a high energy laser and high power microwave; future opportunities within the expanded space program involving the potential for liquid-fueled intermediate class launch vehicles, and solid-fueled heavy class LVs.”

NASA wants to provide “quality training and leadership development for NASA’s workforce, WFF employees, and education stakeholders” and to support “a growing mission base in the areas of civil, commercial, defense, and academic aerospace research.”

The new structures would be on previously disturbed and developed sites. There will be “an increase in noise associated with the expanded space program” and “potential for a sonic boom during LV horizontal landing,” according to the statement. “No residences would be exposed to 115dBA or greater noise levels, the OSHA threshold for a 15-minute exposure.”

“There is potential for slight increases in the types and quantities of hazardous materials, substances, and hazardous waste from proposed operational missions and activities,” the statement noted. “Types of hazardous materials, substances, and hazardous waste would be similar to those used or generated during current operations at WFF and would continue to be managed according to standard procedures. Additional training and BMPs would be implemented as necessary. No significant impacts are anticipated.”

Operation of Intermediate Class Launch Vehicle LVs and Solid Fueled Heavy Class LVs would involve risks to safety similar to previously analyzed rocket launch activities. Commercial human spaceflight missions would require new safety processes and procedures. SRM storage and spacecraft fueling and processing facilities all pose fire and explosive hazards. They are located in North Wallops Island so if a mishap occurs there would be minimal impact on the public or the Wallops employees. 

There was a mention of the “Assawoman Island Land Swap” but it was dismissed as “not carried forward due to numerous environmental, financial, and logistical concerns.” Assawoman is owned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

More than 65% of the WFF operational buildings are more than 40 years old, the report states. “The buildings had an intended life of 15 to 20 years. Many were designed for specialized purposes when WFF was a Naval Auxiliary Air Station or when NASA first increased its presence on Wallops Island in the 1950s and 1960s.” These buildings “are costly to operate and may not meet all requirements of today’s users without substantial modification,” the report states.

WFF is the oldest active launch range in the continental U.S. and the only rocket testing and launch range owned and operated by NASA. For more than 70 years, “WFF has flown thousands of research vehicles in the quest for information on the flight characteristics of airplanes, launch vehicles, and spacecraft, and to increase the knowledge of the Earth’s upper atmosphere and the near space environment. WFF supports aeronautical research, and science, technology, engineering, and math education programs by providing other NASA centers and other U.S. government agencies access to resources such as special use airspace, runways, and launch pads.”

“Advances in DoD technology and training systems have resulted in increased activity in the Navy assets area,” the report stated. “Navy training systems often require dedicated launch areas and pads to execute training missions.”

MARS wants a new deep-water port and operations area, a launch pad, a launch pier, a project support building, and a processing facility.

Demolitions at NASA are listed for the central heating plant, health/quality verification lab, ATC tower, source evaluation board building, air support, packing and crating  facility, optical lab, cafeteria/photo lab/gift shop, post office, groundwater remediation facility, management education center, reproduction facility building telecommunications facility building WFF administration, empty drum storage, supply warehouse  compressed air distribution facility, rain simulator, garage visitor center, and credit union. 

Other demos would be the radar station, sewer ejector station, storm drainage pump, rocket flight hardware storage, fire pump house, former coast guard station, rocket Moto storage facility, fire department support building, paint shop, paint shop storage, electrical storage building, a performance test facility, block house 1, moveable launch shelter building, launch control building, block house 3, terminal cubical, cable terminal, fuel storage magazine, island radar control building, and camera stand.

Most of the new construction and demolition dates are to be determined.

The plan “considers several new operational and mission activities including expansion of Department of Defense programs such as the Navy’s standard missile rocket, SM-3; introduction of a new weapons system currently under development comprised of a high energy laser and high power microwave; future opportunities within the expanded space program involving the potential for liquid-fueled intermediate class launch vehicles, and solid-fueled heavy class LVs.”

NASA wants to provide “quality training and leadership development for NASA’s workforce, WFF employees, and education stakeholders” and to support “a growing mission base in the areas of civil, commercial, defense, and academic aerospace research.”

The new structures would be on previously disturbed and developed sites. There will be “an increase in noise associated with the expanded space program” and “potential for a sonic boom during LV horizontal landing,” according to the statement. “No residences would be exposed to 115dBA or greater noise levels, the OSHA threshold for a 15-minute exposure.”

“There is potential for slight increases in the types and quantities of hazardous materials, substances, and hazardous waste from proposed operational missions and activities,” the statement noted. “Types of hazardous materials, substances, and hazardous waste would be similar to those used or generated during current operations at WFF and would continue to be managed according to standard procedures. Additional training and BMPs would be implemented as necessary. No significant impacts are anticipated.”

Operation of LFIC LVs and SFHC LVs would involve risks to safety similar to previously analyzed rocket launch activities. Commercial human spaceflight missions would require new safety processes and procedures. SRM storage and spacecraft fueling and processing facilities all pose fire and explosive hazards. They are located in North Wallops Island so if a mishap occurs there would be minimal impact on the public or the Wallops employees. 

There was a mention of the “Assawoman Island Land Swap” but it was dismissed as “not carried forward due to numerous environmental, financial, and logistical concerns.” Assawoman is owned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

More than 65% of the WFF operational buildings are more than 40 years old, the report states. “The buildings had an intended life of 15 to 20 years. Many were designed for specialized purposes when WFF was a Naval Auxiliary Air Station or when NASA first increased its presence on Wallops Island in the 1950s and 1960s.” These buildings “are costly to operate and may not meet all requirements of today’s users without substantial modification,” the report states.

WFF is the oldest active launch range in the continental U.S. and the only rocket testing and launch range owned and operated by NASA. For more than 70 years, “WFF has flown thousands of research vehicles in the quest for information on the flight characteristics of airplanes, launch vehicles, and spacecraft, and to increase the knowledge of the Earth’s upper atmosphere and the near space environment. WFF supports aeronautical research, and science, technology, engineering, and math education programs by providing other NASA centers and other U.S. government agencies access to resources such as special use airspace, runways, and launch pads.”

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