Before you swoon by thinking that after spending $7 million Steve Howard has finally pulled-off a miracle, this rocket factory is going to the city of Camden, Arkansas, NOT Camden County, Georgia. [Story Link]
Aerojet-Rocketdyne announced in late April that construction has started in Camden, Arkansas for their new solid-fuel rocket engine factory. Arkansas has no spaceport. The new Aerojet factory (100 jobs) is 958 miles from the nearest rocket spaceport.
Which once-again proves how misguided our County leaders have been by dropping $7 million on a Spaceport with the primary expressed purpose of attracting space factories. The Arkansas Aerojet factory confirms that spaceports not necessary to attract space factories. In fact, Aerojet solid-fuel rockets along with the majority of the oft-touted $300 billion space industry, are not in the least bit related to launch activities possible from Spaceport Camden.
Similarly, there’s no spaceport in Alabama which houses the 1.6-million square foot ULA factory building the Atlas V rocket, and won Blue Origin’s new factory for its next-generation BE-4 rocket engine. NASA already has a huge investment in Alabama. Aerojet is adding the new rocket factory and a hundred more jobs where they already have 800 people working building other rockets. In the spaceport industry, the rich keep getting richer and spaceports are not necessary to build space stuff.
Our Commissioners embarked on a quest based entirely on speculation and extravagant hype. Where have they been getting advice? Mostly from consultants we’ve paid millions of dollars that we’ll never get back.
Camden County refuses to release specifics (or a copy) of their FAA spaceport license application. But we’ve heard from unimpeachable sources that the application is for small rockets, not the big ones Camden has shown us since 2015. However, the potential need for launches for the new generation of satellite constellations may not even include demand for many small rockets. The industry is shaping up
differently than Camden planned.
As an example, this week SpaceX will launch sixty 200-300kg satellites for their proposed internet constellation on a single, reusable Falcon 9 rocket. [LINK]
The 44-degree launch trajectory azimuth for the SpaceX launch is impossible from Spaceport Camden. [Click to see the Falcon 9 Starlink Launch Hazard Area Map attachment].
India’s ISRO PSLV launched 103 satellites in 2017 on a single rocket. Spaceport Camden is counting on companies like Vector (last sub-orbital launch in 2017), ABL Space (no launches ever) or Astra Space (2 launches/2 failures) who can launch only a handful of satellites at a time on expendable rocket. But this market will quickly diminish because there are more than 100 small-class rockets under development to pick up the crumbs left after SpaceX, India, European Space Agency, and China hoist most of the satellites to orbit on large rockets. The cost per pound for small rocket launches is multiples greater than ride-share on large rockets which will generally discourage small rocket use. Even if a small rocket market develops, Rocket Lab is already launching to orbit and India’s new small rocket will fly for the first time in less than 60 days. India’s ISRO has 73 launch missions completed which have inluded dozens of US satellites. They are a formidable competitor.
Steve Howard and Jimmy Starline have not produced a business plan for Spaceport Camden because they have no idea how it will work. They have no launch customers with working rockets. Even if the FAA creates exceptions to existing regulations allowing currently prohibited rocket launches over Cumberland Island (and those exception withstand Federal Court challenges), our spaceport will be the most expensive on earth to launch from because insurance costs will be substantially higher. Other than Chinese and Russian spaceports, NO other spaceports launch directly over people near-downrange like they would from Spaceport Camden. To show you how ridiculous it is to think Camden can launch over Cumberland Island, the Canaveral SpaceX Hazard Areas Zone extend far out into the Atlantic that is clear of ships at launch time.
This rocket engine recently crashed into a home in the equivalent area downrange from a China's spaceport. There was no explosion because the rocket had run out of fuel. But had the same accident occurred from Spaceport Camden with parts landing on Cumberland Island, immense forest fires are certain with extensive damage to wildlife and immediate threats to human safety and private property. Camden chose to under-report these risks to the FAA so the Draft EIS did not legally account for required studies. That is why the Environmental IMpact Statement has been PAUSED since October.
Had Steve Howard, Jimmy Starline, Gary Blount, Lannie Brant, and Ben Casey listened to spaceport opponents, they would have known for years that money spent on Spaceport Camden is gambling rather than “investing.” Starline even admitted as much last week.
Nothing good for Camden (Georgia) taxpayers can come from continuing their bad choices about the spaceport.