Spaceports are hugely expensive front-end investments. Hundreds of millions in incentives and seed money have been provided by several States with mixed results varying from 'still watching' to 'is this a financial disaster?' If the Spaceport is all about jobs and growth, there should be a business plan available showing financial targets; competitive risks; how many, what type and when the jobs will be created; the expected cost of incentives that will be considered; capital improvement and development costs; operating costs; projected revenue from taxes, leases and other sources, etc. So far, Camden County has not told us how much the spaceport will cost and where the money is going to come from.
It would seem that "build it and they will come" will cost many millions, or more. What if nobody comes?
Million$ and Counting . . .
The Environmental Impact Study has been started and an Option Contract has been paid for the Union Carbide site ($960,000 originally, plus an undisclosed cost for renewal in July 2017, plus $3,900,000 later). According to County Expense Records and public statements, Camden County has spent millions of tax dollars on Spaceport consultants, lawyers, travel and promotion expenses. Nothing has been announced about the cost of an easement over the Bayer property that is required for the Spaceport. Here's the accounting . . .
How Can Camden Compete?
Camden County insists that their spaceport would have available trajectories that offer "direct access to an orbital inclination as large as any launch site in the United States", but they show only a very narrow 'keyhole' launch lane over the least populated area of Cumberland and Little Cumberland islands. The over 30 Kennedy/Canaveral launches since 2013 have used launch trajectories on bearings from 48 degrees to 110 degrees, while Spaceport Camden's approximte 122 degree keyhole launch lane does not represent even a single equivalent trajectory. Assuming that the FAA might allow such a route over private property, how could Camden County expect a severely constrained launch lane to be economically feasible and competitive?
There's a lot of Competition . . .
Once you start looking, you'll find there are a lot of spaceports! Some are for horizontal launch ("HL") only, while a others are exclusively vertical launch ("VL") like the one proposed for Camden. Many States are competing for just a few launch operators. Here's a quick look at the Competition.
Where Is the Business Plan?
Georgia Open Records Act Request:
"Please provide the financial budgets and projected budgets the County has developed for the years 2016 through 2021 showing the expected expenses related to the Spaceport Camden project, and their related sources of funding,"
Camden County Response January 8, 2016:
"There are no records responsive to your request maintained by the Camden County Board of Commissioners."
Noise IS Money
In Texas, Noise IS Money. Georgia's proposed Georgia Space Flight Act appears to be based on SpaceX's demand to be relieved of liability because of the Noise Complaints their McGregor Engine Test Facility makes. It turns out that it is enough of a problem that SpaceX will make future location decisions based on getting protections from citizen lawsuits about noise. Here is what has been going on at McGregor, Texas.
Could Camden Be Gambling on the Wrong Technology?
SPACEPLANES vs. REUSABLE ROCKETS - WHICH WILL WIN?
The long runways exist now and the Space Shuttle has proven the versatility and technology for SPACEPLANES, but the technology for commercial spaceplanes is behind that of reusable rockets. Click the picture to read about SKYLON, a promising spaceplane system ready in less than 10 years. Spaceport Camden is planned around a reusable component system like those being tested by SpaceX and Blue Origin. That technology will be usable sooner, but may become obsolete. Follow the discussion:
No Economic Impact Statement, No Feasibility Study
The purpose of a Feasibility Study is to assess:
1) Is the Spaceport Economically justified? Who will be the Customers?
2) Is the Spaceport good for Camden County?
3) What are the Resources required and where will they come from?
4) What are the Negative Impacts?
As of 1/28/2016, Camden County has not produced a Feasibility Study for the Spaceport project.
Spaceports cost hundreds of MILLIONS of dollars. It cost Texas government agencies more than $30 million dollars in cash and incentives to entice SpaceX to build on the Texas Coast. SpaceX had to bring in more than 310,000 cubic yards of new soil will be transported to the SpaceX site by winter 2016 as officials work to stabilize the land at the rocket launch site. SpaceX officials say the new soil will be more suitable for supporting the foundations of the launch complex structures than the clay and sand native to the area.
Virginia says "No More $$$" to rebuild $90 million pad after accident
The accident, blamed on an engine failure, caused about $13 million worth of damage to the pad alone ... NASA has covered about $5 million of the repair tab, while Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK provided another $3 million. Virginia contributed too, committing roughly $3 million of the statefunded spaceflight authority’s $16 million annual operating budget.
Does Spaceport America have a future after $200+ million from New Mexico?
Spaceport America has cost the citizens of New Mexico more than $200,000,000. The primary impetuus for building the spaceport was to host Virgin Galactic's Space Tourism. A seat to space with Virgin Galactic and membership of the Future Astronaut community requires the full price of US$250,000 to be paid as an up front deposit.