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What Are The Odds? The Proof

The following facts prove that the risk a rocket launch accident from Spaceport Camden is 68,892 times more likely than a US aviation accident. The aviation data comes from official FAA and National Transportation Safety Board documents., FAA, NASA, and US Air Force accident reports provide the rocket launch data.


The FAA has claimed they want to make rocket launches just as safe as aviation. Furthermore, Spaceport Camden has made the following claim to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in their Coastal Consistency Determination document:

But the FAA's use of the term "safe" and the statistical methods used are inconsistent with the inferences made by Spaceport Camden:

The most outright deception is when the FAA measures launch safety risk on a PER LAUNCH basis whereas the most generally accepted statistical methods measure risk over a year or a lifetime. Automobile risk is not measured on a per trip to the grocery store basis. Not even sky-diving counts risk on a jump-by-jump basis. At the very least, the risk of 12 launches a year would be twelve times greater every year than the method the FAA now uses. By comparison, aviation risk to the non-flying public is usually expressed as cumulative risk over a 70-year lifetime so the FAA's risk-per-launch analysis for Spaceport Camden is truly outrageous.

The FAA has many study results confirming that small launch vehicles are more likely to fail than larger rockets, and that newer launch vehicles are far less trust-worthy. Spaceport Camden uses the terms "proven" and "unproven" to assure the GaDNR, US Navy , and National Park Service that they will launch safer rockets, but the FAA does not define a "proven" vehicle as having a particular safety performance.

We know that the FAA has not studied the impacts to the Georgia Coast from 1st-stage failures from any class of rocket although the above table, prepared by Paul Wilde who is the Chief Engineer of the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, indicates that the history of rockets means that failures should be expected.

Spaceport Camden implies that the risk to humans should be equated to the risk to the Georgia Coast. This is a classic example of the misuse of statistics. For instance, all rocket debris fragments that fall with too little force to cause a human casualty are discarded by the FAA when calculating "safety zones." Spaceport Camden incorrectly applies the "frequency" of risk to humans to determining the actual "probability" of risk to Georgia's Coast. The FAA is carelessly accepting such misuse of statistics.

As seen in the simple tables below, the FAA should never have allowed anything more than a quick, cursory review of Spaceport Camden, then quickly refused to allow commercial rocket launches from Camden County.

Table 1 represents the risk of a 1st stage failure for liquid-fueled small-class rocket launch attempts since 2006 (the first launch attempts of the SpaceX Falcon 1 occurred in 2006).


Table 2 provides an analysis of ALL Active US-Licensed Liquid-fuel rockets through January 31, 2021. When Andrew Nelson told Camden citizens that the risk of rocket failure was less than 1%, he was including solid fuel rockets and excluding the small-class rockets. The true current failure rate for US-licensed rockets of all classes since SpaceX began testing is 5.4%.


Table 3 is the National Transportation Safety Board's Summary of Accidents, Fatalities, and Rates for Commercial US Air Carriers including both Scheduled and Nonscheduled service. We use the data from 2006 forward which corresponds with the period of small-class rocket development. Since rocket launches are analogous to airplane departures, our comparison uses departure data only. Through 2019 (the last year data is available), there were 423 aviation accidents that provides an average of 30.21 accidents per year. The accident rate calculates to just 0.0003% of the average 9,713,828 departures per year.

Not surprisingly, the Office of Commercial Space Transportation comes to a very similar conclusion when identifying the necessity of a FSS (Flight Safety Termination System) for rockets using Spaceport Camden:


Table 4 summarizes the accident data for aviation and small-class rocket launches from the data provided in Table 1 and Table 3.

Key Comparisons:

>There are 321,498 Aviation Departures per Aviation Accident compared to about 5 rocket launches per 1st-stage rocket accident.

>Rockets are 68,892 times more likely to have an accident than is a US-licensed air carrier.

>If Aviation accidents occurred at Rocket launch accident rates, there would be more than 2,081,535 airplane accidents.

>Most airplane accidents do not destroy the airplane (called hull- loss) whereas 100% of rocket accidents result in 100% destruction.


Table 5 summarizes the accident data for aviation and ALL-class rocket launches (small, medium, medium-large, and heavy-lift) from the data provided in Table 2 and Table 3.

Key Comparisons:

>Although large rockets are much more dependable than small rockets, over the past 15 years they have failed during 5.4% of launches.

>There would have been 505,552 airplane accidents if airplanes had the same departure failure rate as US-licensed rocket launches.

>2,551 airplane accidents would be registered at the 3 Brunswick Ga. area airports each year if airplanes had the same departure accident rate as small-class rockets.

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