Spaceport Camden Opponents: Document Proves Launches Too Dangerous

Spaceport Camden launch trajectories (Credit: Camden County)

CUMBERLAND ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE, Ga. (Protect Cumberland Island PR – A document proving that the Cumberland Island National Seashore’s expected casualty rates from launches at Spaceport Camden exceed FAA limitations has been legally obtained from Camden County by a local citizen under the Georgia Open Records Act (GORA).

The document was included in a large batch of documents sent to a Camden County resident, Steve Weinkle, as part of a GORA request.

The document contains a graphic (below) which clearly indicates that Spaceport Camden was never realistically going to be permitted to launch a medium-large rocket over the Cumberland Island National Seashore.

This document is a memorandum from Spaceport Camden’s subject matter expert, Andrew Nelson, to the law firm that has been engaged to try and address the deficiencies in the Spaceport Camden draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The memorandum also confirms that the source of the very controversial designation of Cumberland Island campers, National Park Service employees, and residents of Little Cumberland and Cumberland Islands as “authorized persons” was created by Andrew Nelson as a “term of convenience” to sidestep an obvious conflict between launching rockets and private property rights and the safety of those downrange.

Stacey Zee, FAA Environmental Protection Specialist, stated in an email on March 28, 2018: “The term ‘authorized persons,’ as used in the DEIS, is a term that Camden has used to describe individuals who could remain in certain areas on Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island during operations at the proposed launch site. It is not a term used anywhere in FAA regulations. In accordance with 14 CFR 417.107, a launch operator may initiate flight only if the risk to any individual member of the public does not exceed a casualty expectation of one in one million per launch for each hazard. Therefore, a launch operator could not conduct a licensed launch from Camden if the risk to any member of the public, including those who remain on Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island, did not meet this requirement. A launch operator who intends to conduct launches from Camden may need to identify closure areas to meet this requirement.”

Despite this clear statement from the FAA, Mr. Nelson continues to tell Camden County officials and its counsel that campers, NPS staff, and private property owners and their visitors are not “members of the public,” but are instead “authorized persons.”

By declaring private property owners “authorized persons” who can remain downrange during rocket launches, Camden County has designated their lives and homes disposable. This diagram proves that.

The Red, Gold, and Yellow areas represent zones where the FAA expected casualty limits are   exceeded for a launch. The entirety of Little Cumberland Island and a significant portion of Cumberland Island are within this area. The Blue dots represent private homes. As Ms. Zee stated, FAA regulations will not allow a rocket to be launched where the expected casualty rate exceeds 1 casualty in 1 million launches.

The Red, Gold, and Yellow areas all exceed this expected casualty threshold. The calculations also do not take into consideration that neither the FAA or Camden County have control over the downrange population as they cannot evacuate or limit the number of owners or their visitors present on their private property.

For more information on the threats that Spaceport Camden poses to the Cumberland Island National Seashore, please visit ProtectCumberlandIsland.org.

About Protect Cumberland Island

Protect Cumberland Island was organized to create awareness of the threats that a proposed commercial spaceport presents to the Cumberland Island National Seashore. Rockets launched from the spaceport would travel directly above this unique National Seashore, requiring closure and evacuation of part or all of the island, and putting the island at risk of exploding rockets that drop burning fuel and parts. Our supporters include those visitors who frequent the Cumberland Island National Seashore as day hikers, campers, residents, researchers as well as individuals who have not yet experienced the unspoiled serenity of this national treasure.