The Federal Aviation administration issued a scoping notice last month, opening the agency’s first official public commenting period for a proposed spaceport to be built in Camden County, Georgia, a coastal county that includes Cumberland Island.
The spaceport is a public-private partnership that would create a take-off site for monthly commercial rocket launches. Proponents tout Camden County’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and transportation infrastructure, like I-95, as reasons why the spaceport should be built there. Being on the Atlantic would allow eastward launches that could take advantage of the earth’s rotation to help propel vehicles into space and would provide flight paths that easily avoid populated areas. Georgia’s southern location would also make it easier for larger payloads to be launched into orbit.
These same boosters also cite Georgia’s status as a right to work state as another key selling point for building in Camden County. One Hundred Miles, an environmental group focused on protecting Georgia’s coast and a member of the Camden Spaceport Environmental Subcommittee, notes that similar spaceports have created relatively few jobs and that the Camden spaceport could jeopardize the local tourism economy.
Tourism in the area is centered around Cumberland Island, a federally designated wilderness, and the pristine coastal environment. One Hundred Miles worries that a commercial facility of this size could ruin the surrounding ecosystem by using too much water, fragmenting habitat, and posing a risk of hazardous spills, among other things. Monthly rocket launches over Cumberland Island, the group points out, could also alter the wilderness character of the island.
Public comments must be delivered to the FAA by January 4, 2016. The FAA will host a public meeting at the Camden County Public Services Authority Recreation Center on Monday, December 7, 2015 from 5-8 pm.