After a two-year open comment process, a potential commercial space site on Georgia’s coast is moving forward with bipartisan political and business leadership support. Should the site be approved, the project could almost immediately begin bringing some of the soon-to-be trillion-dollar commercial space market to the state.
Spaceport Camden (yes, like an airport for space) sits in the sparsely-populated Camden County in southeast Georgia. The site has a history well-suited for the project, having been considered by NASA in the 1960’s as a potential launch site for the Apollo moon missions.
Lately, it’s been used as a home for pesticide manufacturing. But Camden County administrator and project lead Steve Howard says that’s a waste.
“You’re really seeing a new Renaissance with the new space race…. And I think the sky’s wide open for Georgia to be able to really play an active role in the space race,” Howard told Hype in an interview last year.
Others agree. During the public comment period held by the Federal Aviation Administration, the regulatory body that oversees spaceport approvals, all 14 members of the Georgia House and both Georgia Senators expressed their approval of the project. Governor Nathan Deal and Lt. Governor Casey submitted letters of support two weeks later.
Additional support notes were submitted by former Speaker of the House and National Space Council Advisory Group member Newt Gingrich; the private Commercial Spaceflight Federation; the Coastal Regional Commission of Georgia; and Vector Space Systems, a commercial space startup that launched a small, low-altitude test rocket from Camden last summer.
Georgia’s Superintendent of Schools, Richard Woods, also joined in voicing his support. “This is about Georgia’s next generation,” Howard told Hype last year.
“On the talent side, at Columbus State University we have the only science center dedicated to space exploration,” he said. Georgia Tech’s Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering is the largest program of its kind in the country.
The comment period closed two weeks ago. Now, Camden County will submit an official launch site operator license application, after which the FAA has six months to issue a final decision on a launch site operator’s license.
Howard says the FAA will examine all facets of the project — economic impact, environmental factors and more — to determine whether the site will be approved.
“We’ve always said this is the right project at the right time,” said Howard in a statement. “The support from elected officials, commercial space companies, and space policy advocates all reaches the same conclusion: The United States needs more launch capacity and Spaceport Camden is best suited to meet this demand.”
Should Spaceport Camden become a reality, Howard says they have already had multiple commercial space companies reach out expressing interest in using the site.
Tuscon, Arizona-based Vector would likely be the first, according to Howard, followed by other companies. ABL Space Systems recently visited the site to scout for facilities, and has expressed interested in beginning ground testing as soon as the end of 2018.
Note: This article was updated to reflect additional letters of support from Governor Nathan Deal and Lt. Governor Casey following publish date.