This just in over the “New Space’ Hotline:
Spaceport Camden Rocket Named.
It’s “The Howie!”
The dozens of secret space companies clamoring to locate at Spaceport Camden have expressed dismay that Camden’s “representative” rocket has no name. The lack of identity makes it hard to find investors for their secret space projects.
The mystery of Spaceport Camden’s rocket poses numerous problems for the stealthy space companies that have signed NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) while waiting for Camden County to develop their planned “Commercial Space Center of the United States.”
Two typical problems are payload development and fuel supply.
Should a satellite company that builds 350-pound satellites locate in Camden County if the unnamed rocket can only carry satellites totaling less than 100 pounds, including their launch cradles, temporary power supplies, and dispensing system?
Should a rocket fuel supplier build local facilities for 1,000 gallons of liquid oxygen (LOX) needed for Camden's "representative" rocket, or for the 350,000 gallons described in the Spaceport Camden Final Environmental Impact Statement? Should the vendor of highly toxic payload fuels store those locally, transport them 970 miles from New York as needed (according to the FEIS), or grab a few containers from Kennedy Space Center, every now and then? A company has to know these things so they know how much money to ask investors to invest.
Another issue affects discussions with Alaska Aerospace addressed in the Memorandum of Understanding signed just one year ago with Spaceport Camden. Can AKAerospace’s mobile tracking equipment designed for ‘normal’ trajectories actually track a rocket on Camden’s unique “lofted” rocket trajectory that launches almost straight up for 13 miles before arcing over Cumberland Island? The “lofted” trajectory is necessary so that an exploding rocket spreads debris over a wider area of Georgia and is less likely to kill someone. But such a trajectory is not required at other spaceports, so rockets are not designed for it. Can a rocket with a name actually perform like Camden’s fictional, nameless rocket?
Without specifics about Camden’s “representative” rocket, companies cannot make important plans and commitments or ask investors for more money.
The problem results from Spaceport Camden’s vagueness about the “representative” rocket.
From 2015 through December 2019, the rocket was described as similar to the “proven” SpaceX Falcon 9. Earlier, the rocket was a sub-orbital design from Blue Origin. Blue Origin’s space tourism plan for Texas precipitated Georgia’s State law protecting launch companies (and spaceports) from being sued if they killed space tourists. (But Blue Origin launches in the desert because their space capsule doesn’t float. That’s why knowing the rocket’s name is important.) But because of Jason Spencer’s law, we’re sho'nuff competitive.
In 2019, Camden suddenly switched to small-lift class orbital rockets, also known as SLV’s. Those rockets carry orbital payloads up to 4,400 pounds which is about the weight of a Ford F-150. Camden’s “representative rocket” carries 100 pounds (a Rottweiler) to 300 pounds (Pangoro Pokémon). But no such orbital rocket is licensed by the FAA. Camden also claims in its license application that their spaceport “may accommodate small launch vehicles (e.g., RocketLab Electron, Vector R, ABL Launch Systems, FireFly Launch Systems, etc.)” but all are bigger to way bigger than the FEIS covers.
The only successful FAA-licensed SLV rocket is the Rocket Lab Electron. It is 2.3 times more powerful than Camden’s “representative” rocket. All the others are under development or are speculative and therefore are “unproven” and wholly untested, and in any case, are up to 9 times more powerful and proportionally riskier than the "representative" rocket that was evaluated for the $10 million we’ve spent.
More importantly, the Rocket Lab Electron loses millions of dollars with every launch. And that’s after doubling prices! Given Rocket Lab’s 2021 proxy statement’s financial position, an independent auditor "expressed substantial doubt" about Rocket Lab's "ability to continue as a going concern." The linked story closes with this reassurance, "We are highly dependent on the services of Peter Beck, our President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman," the proxy statement said. "Mr. Beck is the source of many, if not most, of the ideas and execution driving our company. If Mr. Beck were to discontinue his service to us due to death, disability or any other reason, we would be significantly disadvantaged."
Yet we’re supposed to believe lesser companies will bring an economic boom to Camden County?
What’s a spaceport to do?
To mollify the ongoing confusion, the space companies ran a contest to “Name the Rocket.” The grand poohbahs at the FAA Department of Rocket Naming were asked to judge.
After thousands of entries and hundreds of billable hours of consultations, the FAA chose “Howie, the Rocket.”
The name is fitting because like the titular sci-fi Marvel Comics’ Howard the Duck, Spaceport Camden proves "... that life's most serious moments and most incredibly dumb moments are often distinguishable only by a momentary point of view."
Also, the Duck’s creator shares his first name with County Administrator, Steve. It’s fitting, then, that Administrator Steve, who is also Camden County's Spaceport Project Lead, shares the Duck’s name “Howard”, too.
Thus, it is “Howard, the Rocket,” or “The Howie” for short.
Now everyone gets it.
The bill, we mean.