FAA: Serious Concerns About Spaceport Camden Safety, Lack of Information

A review of emails indicates the FAA has serious safety concerns about the proposed Spaceport Camden in Georgia that have been worsened difficulties getting information from Camden County. WABE reports:

In multiple emails obtained through open records requests by the Southern Environmental Law Center, FAA staff expressed concern about how Camden’s originally proposed launches could be safe enough for the population beneath its proposed rocket trajectories, which would cross over two barrier islands. And up until at least October, the county had not alleviated those concerns….

Eighty-three families own land and private homes on Little Cumberland, roughly 5 miles east of the proposed launch pad, and many have consistently voiced concerns about how a spaceport launch could safely happen over the island. Cumberland Island next door also has private residences and is largely controlled by the National Park Service as a protected National Seashore.

FAA staff also pointed out the plan to launch so close to overflight populations was unprecedented for the country’s vertical launch spaceports.

In an internal summary of the Camden project from 2017, FAA aerospace engineer Katie Branham wrote that “individual risk and overflight of Little Cumberland Island has been a problem from the very beginning.”

A group of island homeowners have strongly opposed the spaceport on safety reasons.

In a press release, Camden County officials claimed WABE’s report was erroneous.

Camden County is concerned with reports characterizing the FAA as struggling to get safety information from Camden County.  This is not the case.  First, Camden County sent its full flight safety analysis to the FAA in April 2017 and took the unprecedented step of publicly releasing an ITAR compliant version of its Flight Safety Analysis in 2019. Second, the actual emails released from the FAA in response to FOIA show that the FAA repeatedly calculated that Camden County could meet the regulatory thresholds with hundreds of people on Little Cumberland Island. Further, these emails demonstrate that the FAA explored opportunities with Camden County to ensure compliance with the FAA’s requirements.

FAA had planned to release a final environmental impact statement on the application earlier this week. However, last week Camden County amended its application, requiring the FAA to continue the review process.

The original application requested permission to launch up to 12 medium or large rockets per year with a dozen first stage landings. The modification requested approval for small launch vehicles with no landings.