NASA has announced they are moving ahead with plans to build Launch Complex 48 at Kennedy Space Center. LC-48 will obsolete anything Steve Howard has remaining of his ever-shrinking Spaceport Camden. As spaceport opponents easily predicted, our entire $7,000,000 will be wasted.
Before the end of 2019, Kennedy will add the first of two new pads capable of 52 to 104 annual launches. The NASA pads are “being made available to whatever small launcher company wants to come [to Kennedy] and do small vehicle launches.” Howard’s newly downsized Spaceport Camden will try to compete for the same operators. NASA gets billions each year from Congress for Kennedy. Camden must raise property taxes to buy contaminated Union Carbide property.
NASA planned a new vertical launch site in a 2007 Vertical Launch Site Evaluation to accommodate small/medium launch vehicles at Kennedy. Those plans were formalized in the 2014 Kennedy Master Plan as LC-48 when they committed to “Continue to promote KSC’s unique location, infrastructure, and capabilities to further support Non-NASA access to space.” [Full LC-48 Story]
That was a year before Camden hired Andrew Nelson who Commissioners have paid more than $1,000,000 as their spaceport “subject matter expert.” It was also a year before they paid almost a million dollars for the right to buy the contaminated Union Carbide site within two years. In the same year, as Camden started spending big money on Spaceport Camden, Space Florida abandoned plans and stopped spending money on their Environmental Impact Statement for Shiloh Commercial Spaceport because Florida’s Senator Bill Nelson said it “wouldn't be needed.”
By 2016, the FAA knew that Cumberland and Little Cumberland Islands lay in the downrange hazard zone violating every FAA safety regulation for launches over civilians. Within the last 12 months, Kennedy/Canaveral has leased 3 of its 23 inactive launch sites to rocket companies that have never launched a rocket. Eight times as many launch slots existed in 2016 as there were rocket launches in the US. Yet Camden plowed ahead. As of today, only a single American small rocket company has successfully launched a total of just five times to orbit.
Now, small rocket launch companies can add 104 more launch slots from Kennedy/Canaveral:
New LC-48 is open to any American rocket company.
The two planned pads handle eight times as many launches as Spaceport Camden.
Rockets will launch directly over the ocean so that insurance costs will be much lower at Kennedy (and Wallops) than at Spaceport Camden.
No EIS is required.
No campers, tourists or park workers will be evacuated for launches from LC-48.
Local taxpayers do not subsidize private space launches at Kennedy/Canaveral.
No civilians lives are at risk from launches at LC-48.
The new pads are in addition to the Air Force's lease of three of their 23 idle pads to individual rocket companies:
The writing has been on the wall for a long time that there is no space business for Spaceport Camden. It was a gamble against stiff competition for launch demand that remains entirely speculative from still unproven startup rocket companies. Although we have many, many wonderful assets, Camden cannot offer enough peripheral incentives to attract established space industries. That’s not something you can create out of a former industrial waste site.
Interestingly, the Georgia Space Alliance just announced that it will be dissolving before the end of 2019. Steve Howard is a Board Member of GSA. We’ve also paid more than $50,000 for Howard’s participation in the Commercial Spaceflight Federation with no benefit to Camden taxpayers.
The moral of this story is that when a traveling spaceport salesman comes knocking, don’t open the door. Just last summer, Andrew Nelson was all-in on Medium-large rockets for Spaceport Camden and even created new terms for the FAA hoping they would justify bypassing safety regulations. The FAA was forced to state immediately that Nelson’s safety exemptions were unacceptable. Steve Howard now freely admits that Spaceport Camden will only launch “small” rockets. Camden should have called it quits after the FAA denounced Nelson’s fictitious “Authorized Persons.” Yet, tonight, after already sending Nelson more than $1,000,000, they renewed his contract. Like Nelson, I’ve never built a spaceport or launched a rocket, but I’m not paid to protect Camden taxpayers from bad advice. That’s our County Commissioners job.
FAA EIS remains PAUSED while we continue to pay spaceport consultants, spaceport lawyers, and spaceport PR guys plus spend even more money on spaceport property options:
After spending more than $7,000,000 on a doomed project, it’s time for Commissioners Lannie Brant, Chuck Clark, Jimmy Starline, Gary Blount, and Ben Casey to stop digging the hole any deeper. A Commissioner who hasn’t consumed the spaceport elixir would put his constituents first by rejecting the proposed $1.47 million spaceport budget expense and reducing the tax increase by a full mil.
They forgot that before you sell something, it needs to satisfy a need. Spaceport Camden is an expensive vanity project, and nothing else.