S'long ABL Aerospace
See Later Corrected Post
On September 27, 2019, the Camden Press newspaper reported that ABL Aerospace has asked the Camden County (GA) Joint Development Authority to release the company from its lease. Although ABL has not publicly demonstrated developed rocket engine technology, the reason they gave for cancellation is that they cannot fire its rocket engines at the former gym located next to the closed Saint Marys airport.
Just one year ago, Camden County announced its first Spaceport Camden related lease when ABL Aerospace of El Segundo, California rented the basketball gym adjacent to the shuttered airport. The airport was closed in 2017 due to security risks with operations of the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. Kings Bay is the home port for the Navy's Atlantic Fleet of nuclear ballistic submarines armed with Trident Missiles. As originally reported, the City of St. Marys, the Joint Development Authority, and ABL had coordinated closely with the United States Navy to ensure ABL’s activities do not interfere with the mission or operational security of the submarine base.
Jimmy Starline, Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners was quoted in 2018 stating, “ABL has made a substantial commitment to Camden County.”
In the lease announcement, Steve Howard, Camden County Administrator and Spaceport Camden Project Lead said, “Today’s commitment by ABL will be the cornerstone of Camden’s participation in the new space race.”
Steve Weinkle, an outspoken opponent of Spaceport Camden questioned how ABL Aerospace could have signed a $7,000 per month lease not knowing that the most basic development functions of a rocket company could not be conducted at the site. He said that even after the Camden Joint Development Authority made requested leasehold improvements, ABL never occupied the building. Weinkle said, “The close proximity to nearby residential homes and nuclear Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay may also have been an insurmountable problem.” ABL will vacate the vacant building by December 31.
Camden County has spent over four years and $7 million on the FAA Spaceport Environmental Impact Statement process and licensing. Besides ABL, other prospects previously expressing interest in Spaceport Camden have included now-shuttered Vector Space and XCOR. No space companies with operating launch technology have signed as Spaceport Camden’s "partner" in the planned “public/private” partnership.
Spaceport opponents have challenged the FAA’s acceptance of Camden’s spaceport application due to numerous problems making the site unsuitable for rocket testing and launches. Camden officials have maintained secrecy over the FAA application and the hazard analyses.
On September 29, 2019, The Albuquerque Journal reported an “ABL” was a tenant at New Mexico’s Spaceport America but provided no additional information.