The FAA deemed Camden County’s original application for a Launch Site Operator’s License to be “complete enough” to begin their review on June 19, 2019 and they were expected to make their decision on or before December 16, 2019. Camden County’s original application was for a spaceport focused on medium and medium large launch vehicles. On December 14, 2019, just two days before the FAA was to issue their decision on the application, Camden County sent the FAA a request that the FAA toll the 180-day decision period to allow them the opportunity to limit their application to small launch vehicles. The FAA sent Camden County this letter December 16, 2019 to acknowledge their agreement to toll the 180 decision period and to bring to Camden County’s attention several significant issues that remain unresolved with respect to their application. Camden County submitted a revised application to the FAA on January 15, 2020.
If licensed, Spaceport Camden would be used by commercial rocket companies to launch rockets directly over the Cumberland Island National Seashore.
Camden County has entered into an Option Agreement with Union Carbide Corporation that grants Camden County the option to purchase a 4,000-acre property for $4,800,000. Camden County has spent over $9,000,000 of taxpayer dollars pursuing the project. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project indicates that launches from the proposed spaceport will be on trajectories ranging from 83 degrees to the north and 115 degrees to the south. This image indicates the most southerly trajectory contemplated by the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and the resulting hazard and closure areas. All existing spaceports in the United States require the downrange hazard areas to be evacuated in order to avoid loss of life in the event a launch failure.
All rockets launched from the spaceport will travel directly over the Cumberland Island National Seashore. This crucial fact has been obscured by Camden County as it has attempted to build support for the project. Camden County indicates on its website for the project that launches are possible “over the Atlantic Ocean and a large, undeveloped buffer zone.” The “large, undeveloped buffer zone” includes state protected salt marsh and the Cumberland Island National Seashore, a national park that is visited by over 60,000 visitors per year. In addition to park visitors, there are significant in-holdings of private property and homes on Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island. This would be the only vertical launch spaceport in the United States where rockets are launched over a national park with active visitation or private homes.
Other vertical launch facilities are located at the water’s edge, so exploding rockets can fall into the water, not onto a national seashore or citizens’ private property.