After two good years of operations and plenty of positive publicity, SpaceX just had a pretty terrible week.
Last Tuesday, SpaceX launched their Falcon Heavy rocket for the second time, but one of the three 1st stages toppled from the landing barge into the ocean. This was a pure accident but points out that the best-laid plans often end poorly or differently than expected despite preparations for success. That is why Camden’s refusal to release the spaceport risk analysis data is quite alarming. While the EIS languishes into its costly fourth year, the FAA has argued in federal court that not even they have received Camden’s risk analysis. We know a risk analysis exists because we paid for it.
What is Camden hiding?
Then, on Saturday, the SpaceX Crew Dragon Manned Capsule blew to smithereens during testing at Cape Canaveral. Fortunately, no astronauts were on board. The explosion was in the emergency system meant to save the astronauts if the rocket fails. A rescue system is needed because rockets sometimes fail. However, there is no system to protect civilians from the flaming parts of the rest of the rocket which normally drop into the ocean at other spaceports. But at Spaceport Camden, this can happen over private property, civilians, and national parkland. If that isn't alarming enough, the Crew Dragon’s emergency-escape thrusters consume hypergolic dimethyl hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants which chemically ignite when mixed together. They are also extremely toxic. The Spaceport Camden Draft EIS acknowledges that these fuels will be used at the spaceport. Link: It will take $1 Billion and 100 years to cleanup Cape Canaveral)
Crew Dragon Explosion, April 20, 2019:
These eye-opening events demonstrate how risky space endeavors are, even for the most accomplished and richest of the private space companies. Camden taxpayers should understand that our elected officials have spent almost $7 million tax dollars pursuing a spaceport that might someday launch rockets from startup rocket companies that have NEVER had a single successful launch. Experienced rocket companies like SpaceX, ULA, Northrop Grumman, and Blue Origin will never launch from Spaceport Camden.
No space company has invested even one dollar towards Spaceport Camden. The safety and financial risks to Camden are far, far greater than we were promised.
Since there are plenty of existing launch pads, Camden politicians continue their fool’s errand with an infinitesimal chance of providing the jobs and financial benefits they tout. County leadership failed risk and business management with the PSA. How can we expect them to understand risk and business management for the space industry?
Who can Commissioners blame for paying for and following years of bad advice when they’ve been warned for years that they’ve been getting bad advice?