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FAKE NEWS- Spaceport Camden Style

FAKE NEWS, Spaceport Style.

Spaceport promoters were happy last week with Steve Howard’s announcement that Camden was a “finalist” for a big space-related project called Project Osprey. We’ve heard about “finalist” before.

Howard wrote, “Hi xxxx, Great news to start off with in 2021 to share with your readers. Camden County has been selected as a location finalist candidate with a space company for their proposed Head Quarters[sic], Manufacturing, and operations. Opportunity for up to 200+ high paying jobs with average salary from $80k to $100k. Capital investment from company of over $40 million. Also future launch operations would occur from Spaceport Camden.”

Is it true?

From the beginning, we’ve heard that space companies were flocking to Spaceport Camden. The only company to make any commitment was ABL Space, and they paid rent for a year but never moved so much as a desk into the former church gym. They created ZERO jobs in Camden. Then they fled. It is also safe to say that like every economic development prospect, the new ‘space’ companies seek the “best deal” they can by pitting their preferred site against hungry competitors. It might be the best way to get a deal where they already operate. SpaceX got more than $30 million out of Texas by including Camden in the mix two years after they applied for their FAA approval. Rocket companies that have never launched a rocket bring wishful thinking to the table and little else.

We first heard about Project Osprey last summer. Camden is very secretive about the project, but they want the press to keep believing. Project Osprey is probably not a successful rocket company. ALL five of those have new, expansive facilities. Why does a non-rocket space company need a spaceport nearby when the US Space Force, like Blue Origin, is headquartered in a state without a spaceport?

Let’s hope Howard is not talking about Phantom Space. Phantom is a startup formed by the former CEO of bankrupt Vector Space, the company that launched an amateur rocket to 4,500 feet from “Spaceport Camden” in 2017. The Vector rocket is still featured on the Spaceport Camden website and in key parts of Camden’s revised FAA license application. Yet, Vector never launched another rocket (real or amateur) though they made “commitments’ to Wallops, Kennedy, and Kodiak spaceports. And the Vector-R has since been relegated to the ‘sub-orbital’ category, which can never be launched from Spaceport Camden.

Two days before Camden’s “finalist” announcement, Phantom posted the tweet to the right on their official Twitter account. The tweet shows Phantom’s new Daytona rocket that will be “complete” by the end of March (Q1).

Except, the picture is a photoshopped fake.

The ORIGINAL picture shows the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on June 6, 2019. Phantom has no facilities in Florida.

Phantom replaced the original NASA photo’s white Orion capsule escape tower (1) with an artist’s rendering (1) of the black Phantom rocket.

Phantom added the Phantom logo (2) to a blank wall in the original photo (2). Perhaps Phantom wanted the public, investors, development agency authorities, county commissioners, and local newspaper reporters to believe that the NASA workshop was a Phantom workshop.

And finally (3) , the workers and observers are NASA employees (3).

When the FAKE was exposed, Jim Cantrell ridiculed those exposing the sleight-of-hand:

One year ago, published a story titled, “The Space Industry’s BS. Problem.” From the story:

  • Startups make bold claims about their current technology, on-orbit performance and future prospects. Industry veterans, meanwhile, patiently explain why the claims are unrealistic or physically impossible.”

  • “Peter Klupar, Breakthrough Prize Foundation chief engineer and former NASA Ames Research Center engineering director, says if the information entrepreneurs share is not factual, ‘it’s not that they are lying, it’s that they confuse reality with their desires. They so passionately believe in them that they fool themselves.’”

  • “Since not all news releases and public comments get the appropriate level of scrutiny, misinformation is widespread. There is ‘a certain BS factor,’ said an industry veteran who asked not to be identified.”

  • “Tess Hatch, Bessemer Venture Partners investor and a former SpaceX employee has little patience for dishonesty. ‘The second an entrepreneur exaggerates or fibs, it’s a hard stop,’ she said. Source: January 20, 2020

Spaceport Camden’s highly paid “spaceport subject matter expert,” told us repeatedly over the past five years that SpaceX-sized rockets could legally launch from Camden County. The FAA never agreed.

Camden taxpayers continue to fund the speculative spaceport venture. The County Commissioners are already talking about a new 1% Transportation Sales Tax. They provide no evidence that even if they were lucky enough to land “200 jobs” paying “$80K to $100K a year,” that even a few of those jobs will go to Camden families. Although Steve Howard claims the “space company” would invest $40 million, nothing in the Phantom fake photo can be bought in Camden County (except the worker’s clothing, electrical conduit, and the trashcan liners.)

We hear “Camden Finalist” tales most often when Camden needs a PR boost or to offset some anticipated bad news. Industry observers know that every non-NASA commercial spaceport does the same thing.

Meanwhile, the FAA acts like this is just part of the messiness of making spaceport sausage. At previous spaceports, that might have done little harm. But for spaceport Camden, the FAA bias that licenses unnecessary spaceports at any cost will harm a lot of Georgians and Georgia businesses and spoil our coast. For generations. Meanwhile, not even our Camden Commissioners and community spaceport supporters know the truth because significant parts of the space industry cannot tell the truth.

What makes Phantom’s January 17 Tweet so odd is that just 12 days earlier, they tweeted they are “…on track to start building the development models…” Yet, Cantrell told a Twitter questioner who asked for an explanation about the doctored photo, he will “Will provide images when [the development model is] ready.”

  • How can a County Commissioner or the Georgia DNR Decision-maker know the truth?

  • After 5+ years, informed citizens and reporters should be asking hard questions.

  • The answers from Camden’s experts have been falling apart for years.


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