Launch Danger Zone "LDZ"

The Launch Danger Zone ("LDZ") represents the down range areas where people, flora and fauna are at risk during a particular launch. LDZ is not an official term - in fact - we cannot find an official designation that singularly describes the combined area around the launch site and down range where people, objects or the environment can be harmed if there is an accident or just if they are too close. People, ships and planes are evacuated from this zone hours and sometimes days before a launch and are allowed to reenter soon after a successful launch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

The 'trajectory' is one of the many confusing and misunderstood issues about the Spaceport project. Although many launches may have a similar destination (like the ISS), the flight to get there is a little (or a lot) different each time. For instance, launches to the ISS will use differing trajectories because the payload must intercept the orbit of the moving ISS target.  If the payload travels too far or too short, or is otherwise 'off target', the payload must be steered to the exact location of the ISS while they are both traveling more than 17,000 MPH. A very little error in matching the trajectory and orbit is a huge miss with little fuel available for the chase. Thus each ISS launch will have a very narrow launch window (could be just 5 minutes) and depending on the location of the ISS in its orbit, and the tilt of the earth, and the exact weight of the payload, etc., etc., it will have a different trajectory. A satellite launch does not have to intercept a target, so its window is larger, but other factors will affect its launch trajectory.


There is no single trajectory at other Spaceports.  The LDZ will change for each launch. Affecting the trajectory is the type of rocket being launched and whether the purpose is to launch a satellite, test a new rocket engine, resupply the ISS, and many other factors. To obtain a launch site license, Camden only needs to demonstrate that it has a single viable trajectory. The FAA site license sets limits of possible launch trajectory azimuths, but each launch license will be approved for its unique trajectory azimuth and corresponding LDZ.

Spaceport Camden promotional images show a SpaceX-type landing pad. So In the unlikely case of a SpaceX launch and 1st stage recovery, the operators will bring this very large, fueled component with engines firing back to the Spaceport and will attempt to land on a 400' x 400' pad. This is also quite dangerous if anything goes wrong and must be a major subject of risk assessment. So far, we've heard very little about actual trajectory limits and what LDZ will really like at SPC. This is a new type of safety issue with a short history. The recent successful SpaceX 1st stage landing approached over the ocean and landed on the much, much larger Kennedy Space Center. At Spaceport Camden, all landings would approach over Cumberland Island. 

The real issue is that when the County has shown anything at all about the trajectory, it is just a suggestion of what one MIGHT look like. Each launch is individually approved and the trajectory/LDZ is stated for the first time with the FAA approval of a particular launch. During launch operations, the onsite blast zone becomes part of the Launch Danger Zone that extends downrange and is restricted for humans, boats and planes (and we assume for submarines). For SpaceX Falcon-9 launches from Kennedy Space Center, this area can reach out to sea almost 100 miles, tapering from around 23 miles wide at the launch site to about 10 miles wide far out to sea. The drawing on this page represents what one particular Kennedy SpaceX Falcon-9 LDZ would look like if overlaid on the Spaceport Camden site. 

The failed Antares flight from Wallops in 2014 was initially postponed because a sailboat moved into the LDZ and could not be cleared during the 10 minute launch window illustrating that the LDZ is huge.


SPC proponents have not presented a comprehensive discussion of the LDZ. Our drawings linked to this page use the attainable orbital inclination, and by calculation, the resulting azimuths, taken from an undated Spaceport Camden document entitled NASA Moving Towards Privatization. The only significant rule that we assume remains immutable is that the LDZ cannot be over populated areas. Our end calculations are comparable to launch possibilities from Kennedy Space Center. Since Wallops, Kennedy, Kodiak and Boca Chica all launch over water it would seem like Cumberland Island, Jekyll Island, and a significant portion of Camden's coastal property including Kings Bay Sub Base and Crooked River State Park the LDZ will inevitably present a huge problem for SPC. It would be the first time such approvals would be given for a US Spaceport.

 

 

If rocket launches are so safe, why is there such a large Launch Danger Zone where people, boats and aircraft are excluded?

 

Will residents of Cumberland Island have to be evacuated? Is there any other spaceport that requires residents to be removed for commercial space launches?

 

What are the extents of the LDZ that will be allowed at Spaceport Camden?

 

Can the Navy disclose secret information to the launch site operators to avoid launches when submarines are in the LDZ? Or will launches take priority over national defense and submarine operations?

 

Has the US Navy approved the risk that SPC presents to Kings Bay Submarine Base facilities?

 

What impacts will SPC have on St. Marys, St. Simons, Brunswick and Jacksonville airports? Will there be a permanent restricted zone like the one at Wallops? 

 

Can the National Parks Service allow rocket launches over the 9,000 acres (15 square miles) of Cumberland Island that are Congressionally mandated as a National Wilderness Area?

 

How will visitors to Cumberland Island be restricted when they have made reservations up to 1/2 year in advance of their visit?

 

Will launches be allowed on holiday weekends like Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Labor Day when the beaches, inland waterways and campsites are very busy?

 

The plan for SPC is for 12 launches, meaning 12 LDZ closures per year, but how many additional times has the LDZ been closed at other spaceports after launches been postponed?

 

Will boaters have to have special equipment to know they are in the LDZ?

 

What will be the penalty for a boater who unwittingly enters the LDZ during a launch causing a postponed launch costing hundreds of thousands of dollars?

 

Will private insurance cover loss of life, injuries or property damages if someone is harmed while unwittingly in the LDZ?

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