When FAA spokesperson, Stacey Zee, hit "send" yesterday at 4:57 P.M. and probably left the office for the day, the FAA notified us in a terse announcement that its long-awaited December 16, 2019 decision date meant nothing. The FAA had granted Camden County yet another deadline extension to allow them to solve their Spaceport application problems. The federal Permitting Dashboard shows that, once again, Spaceport Camden is “PAUSED” at the FAA. https://www.permits.performance.gov/permitting-projects/spaceport-camden-proposed-launch-site-environmental-impact-statement
On June 4, 2015, The Brunswick News reported, “[County Administrator Steve] Howard said the agreement enables the county to begin the 18-month process of Federal Aviation Administration environmental assessments, public hearings, and meetings." Eighteen months ended on December 4, 2016. It’s been missed deadline after missed deadline ever since. The same news story reports that the County presented a study estimating “a spaceport would create 2,500 high-tech jobs in the county.”
Sixteen hundred and thirty days have not been enough for Steve Howard and Jimmy Starline to license a single trajectory for any rocket from the contaminated Union Carbide site.
Sixteen hundred and thirty days have not been enough for Steve Howard and Jimmy Starline to create even one commercial space industry job in Camden County.
Sixteen hundred and thirty days have not been enough for Steve Howard and Jimmy Starline to present a Spaceport business plan to the public.
Sixteen hundred and thirty days have not been enough for Steve Howard and Jimmy Starline to present a budget or tell us how much the spaceport will ultimately cost us.
Sixteen hundred and thirty days have not been enough for Steve Howard and Jimmy Starline to show us the unredacted Union Carbide Purchase Contract.
Sixteen hundred and thirty days have not been enough for Steve Howard and Jimmy Starline to meet FAA requirements for their ever-shrinking spaceport.
However, sixteen hundred and thirty days have been enough for Steve Howard and Jimmy Starline to spend more than $8,000,000 on “experts,” membership fees, travel, spaceport trinkets, hosting conference breakfasts, and other essential spaceport thingies in pursuit of their spaceport fantasy.
Yet, four years later, Camden persists in spending tens of thousands every month. How much will this last-second submission of “additional application materials from the applicant - Camden County, Georgia” cost Camden taxpayers?
The FAA is complicit because it seems that they cannot allow Camden County to fail. Though their regulations say otherwise, they seem determined to find some way to launch a rocket --- any rocket --- even a fictional one --- from Spaceport Camden.
If you weren’t previously worried, now’s the time to start, because when no one fails – that’s when something is fishy.
In other Spaceport Camden News:
The Commissioner’s former heart-throb, Vector Space, declared bankruptcy on December 13. After launching (and crashing) an amateur rocket in 2017 from Camden County, Vector never launched another rocket. Taxpayers spent thousands on that dog-and-pony show including the cost of assigning sheriff and fire units and renting a portable executive toilet trailer for our Commissioners' privileged guests. Camden has signed no “private partners” for Spaceport Camden. It’s all on Camden taxpayers.
If Camden officials think that downsizing to smaller rockets will solve their spaceport safety issues, the FAA has extensive studies showing smaller rockets fail far more often. For example, EXOS Aerospace announced last week, “Now, we know what went wrong: A composite part just below the nose cone failed, causing the nose cone to slide down into the rocket,” said John Quinn, Exos Aerospace's co-founder and chief operating officer. “The booster then flew nearly horizontally, beyond any hope of recovery,” he said. "What's really interesting is, the component that failed was one that we replaced," Quinn added. Exos engineers saw some moderate signs of stress in the composite part, so they decided to put in a new piece for the fourth launch. Obviously, that replacement didn't go according to plan.
But, as EXOS' Quinn put it, the failure is "part of rocket science."
EXOS is a 12-person rocket company safely building its rockets in Caddo, Texas, then launching them in New Mexico where crashes occur in the desert. There has to be a lesson there for Steve Howard, Jimmy Starline, and the FAA.