ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The federal agency that monitors offshore oil leases has received a comment on drilling the Arctic Ocean from a surprise source – NASA.
Alaska Energy Bureau reports that the Oceanic Energy Management Bureau has asked for a comment because the Trump administration believes the sale of a lease in 2019 to Beaufort's sea coast.
A letter from NASA says Bordeaux Morse drilling platforms could be affected by firings from its only missile range.
The Space Administration funded the Poker Flat Research Range outside Fairbanks. The high-latitude rocket for decades is run by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
"What we know about doing an aura," said Poker Flat director Kate Rich.
Scientists shoot missiles that pass through the aura and sometimes land long distances from the launch site.
"If we are looking for something far to the north, it will go down to the Sea of Beaufort or the Arctic Ocean, one or the other," Rich said.
NASA's Goddard Space Center, in April, sent a letter to the Oceanic Energy Management Bureau, assessing that 70 parts of the missile had arrived at the Beaufort Marine Airport since the 1960s.
NASA has expressed concern that the future development of oil and gas in the Beaufort Sea could lead to the need to protect additional people and property during the launch.
As scientists use rockets with higher efficiency nowadays, they can land more in Beaufort, according to NASA.
The chances of breaking rocket parts into oil platforms are extremely unlikely, Rich said. Scientists will not release them if they think people or infrastructure would be in danger. What is more likely is that more activity at sea in Beaufort can limit research opportunities, Rich said.
"The lower zone we have may be a kind of needle wrapping with all the different things we should avoid," Rich said. "So every time you have to add something else to what can be avoided, this can lead to fewer startups for us."
He is optimistic that NASA and the Ocean Management Bureau will reach an agreement. The study is important because the aura is like a visual manifestation of the energy of the sun that enters the upper atmosphere of the Earth. This energy can affect mobile communications or the power grid
Bureau spokesman John Callahan said by e-mail the agency will work with NASA to explore the best options.
"We are happy that they called us to talk about safe operations in Beaufort," Callahan said. "This is a great example of good communication lines between federal agencies here."