Georgia Supreme Court Denies Camden County Request for Emergency Relief on Spaceport Vote Certification

Spaceport Camden launch complex (Credit: Camden County)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Georgia Supreme Court denied a request from Camden County for emergency relief to prevent the certification of a referendum in which residents voted overwhelmingly to rescind the county’s purchase of 4,000 acres from Union Carbide for the construction of Spaceport Camden.

The decision will allow Camden County Probate Judge Robert C. Sweatt Jr. to certify the results of the March 8 referendum in which 72 percent of voters cast ballots against the purchase of the property. The Current reports that this is not the end of the county’s efforts to have the referendum voided as being illegal under the Georgia constitution.

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Voters Overwhelmingly Reject Spaceport Camden Plan

Spaceport Camden launch complex (Credit: Camden County)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Camden County voters overwhelmingly rejected the Board of Commissioners plan to buy 4,000 acres of land to build a spaceport near on the Georgia coast for small-satellite launch vehicles.

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Camden County Could Invalidate Negative Public Vote on Spaceport

Spaceport Camden launch complex (Credit: Camden County)

With the fate of Spaceport Camden up in the air in a Tuesday referendum, the Camden County Board of Commissioners took action on late Friday afternoon that could allow it to invalidate a vote against purchasing the land for the facility.

Camden County Board of Commissioners appointed five members to the previously vacant Spaceport Camden Authority during a special meeting that started at 4:30 p.m. EST. The members include: County Commission Chairman Gary Blount, Commissioner Chuck Clark, former Commissioner David Rainer, retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert S. Dickman and businessman C.B. Yadav.

The Current explains what the commissioners might be up to:

Citizens who attended the Friday meeting voiced their concern that the commission is planning an end run around their vote by having the Spaceport Authority purchase the land. The option contract the county signed with Union Carbide allows the county to transfer the option with the consent of Union Carbide.

In public comment during the meeting, resident and spaceport critic Steve Weinkle asked the commissioners if the purpose of the appointments was to do just that.

They declined to answer.

“If they don’t wish to answer that question, then we can assume the worst,” Weinkle said.

The meeting came on the same day that a judge rejected the county’s attempt to invalidate the referendum as violating the Georgia constitution. The vote was triggered when opponents submitted signatures of 10 percent of active county voters as required under the state constitution.

Rep. Steven Sainz, who represents Camden County in the Georgia legislature, posted a video on Facebook saying this was not the purpose of the spaceport authority when he co-authored legislation that created it. The authority was created to work with companies that decided to launch from the spaceport. To date, the county has not announced any tenants.

Supporters of the spaceport say it will bring high tech jobs and tax revenues to the county. Opponents claim the benefits have been overstated, and that visitors to Cumberland Island National Seashore and private homeowners in the area would be at risk from launch failures.

Voting Continues on Camden County Spaceport as Judge Rejects Bid to Invalidate the Referendum

Spaceport Camden launch complex (Credit: Camden County)

The fate of Spaceport Camden in Georgia hangs in the balance as early voting continues on a March 8 referendum on whether to invalidate Camden County’s decision to buy 4,000 acres of land for the facility from Union Carbide. The Current reports that almost 2,000 residents had cast their ballots in early voting as of Friday.

On Friday, Superior Court Steven Scarlett rejected an appeal by Camden County to invalidate the referendum on the grounds that it violates the Georgia constitution. Scarlett authorized the county to file an appeal of his order.

The county argued that Probate Court Judge Robert Sweatt Jr. had misinterpreted the constitution when he ordered the referendum last month. Opponents of the project trigged the vote after submitting a petition signed by more than 3,500 active voters.

Camden County has spent $10 million in its effort to build the spaceport to host small satellite launch vehicles. Supporters argue it will bring high-tech jobs to the county and bolster local tax revenues.

Opponents argue the county has over stated the benefits of the spaceport. They also say rocket launches will endanger visitors to Cumberland Island National Seashore as well as private residences along the launch trajectory.

SaxaVord UK Spaceport and Met Office Reach Forecasting Agreement

Future launch site (Credit: SaxaVord UK Spaceport)

GRANTOWN ON SPREY, Scotland (SaxaVord UK Spaceport PR) — SaxaVord UK Spaceport is to install a weather station with the support of the Met Office, to help with forecasting for rocket launches.

The Met Office will advise on the most appropriate equipment and best location on the Lamba Ness peninsula where launches are to take place.

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Work Set to Begin on UK’s First Vertical Launch Spaceport in Shetland

A rocket launches from Lamba Ness peninsula in Unst. (Credit: Shetland Flyer Aerial Media)

GRANTOWN ON SPREY, Scotland (SaxaVord UK Spaceport PR) — Construction of the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport is scheduled to begin in late March after it received planning approval from its local authority, Shetland Islands Council.  

The approval provides Scottish Ministers with a 28-day window to review the application by SaxaVord UK Spaceport. Should Scottish Ministers choose not to call the application in for review, or call it in and agree that the project should proceed, construction of the £43m [USD $57.3 million] spaceport can begin.  

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All Systems Are Go: Lockheed Martin Welcomes Approval From Shetland Islands Council For SaxaVord Spaceport Construction

Launch from Shetland (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin UK welcomes the approval from Shetland Islands Council to build the SaxaVord spaceport that will allow the company to deliver the UK’s first ever vertical space launch.

Harwell, Oxford, UK, February 28, 2022 (Lockheed Martin PR) – Lockheed Martin UK welcomes the approval from Shetland Islands Council to build the SaxaVord spaceport that will allow the company to deliver the UK’s first ever vertical space launch.

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Spaceport Camden to Go Before Voters on March 8

Spaceport Camden launch complex (Credit: Camden County)

The fate of Spaceport Camden in Georgia will be decided in a special election on March 8, The Current reports.

Opponents of the spaceport gathered the signatures of more than 10 percent of the county’s registered voters to put the issue to a vote. Probate Judge Robert C. Sweatt Jr. issued an order verifying the referendum after the court determined that 3,516 valid voter signatures had been submitted. The requirement was 3,482 valid signatures.

Voters will be asked whether they want to repeal resolutions passed by the Camden County Board of Commissioners authorizing the purchase of property from Union Carbide Corporation that will be used for the spaceport.

Camden County has spent about $10 million in its effort to build a spaceport where small-satellite boosters would be launched a dozen times per year.

Supporters say the spaceport will bright much needed investment and jobs to the county. Opponents have labeled the project as an expensive boondoggle. Rockets would also fly over Cumberland Island National Seashore, which is open to the public. Homeowners along the route also worry about rockets damaging or destroying their residences.

Video: Angry Astronaut Looks at the Environmental Obstacles SpaceX Faces Getting Starbase Approved

Editor’s Note: Not a bad analysis. He points out the questionable wisdom of launching the largest, most powerful rocket ever built from a base placed in the middle of a wildlife preserve with a number of endangered or threatened species.

However, he’s off in terms of some of his criticism. The FAA approval for 12 Falcon 9/Heavy launches annually included the right to test experimental vehicles at the site. Elon took that provision and drove Boosterzilla through it while abandoning plans for any Falcon 9 or Heavy launches from Boca Chica. Should the FAA has foreseen that? Maybe. Or just eliminated the provision for testing experimental vehicles?

As use of the facility changed, the FAA kept approving upgrades and expansion of the site even as the use completely changed. The agency finally chose an environmental assessment (EA) that SpaceX is writing over a much more rigorous and time consuming environmental impact statement (EIS). An EIS was done for the original approval; conservancy groups have been argument for another one given the significant changes in SpaceX’s plans. The wisdom of FAA’s decision to go with the less rigorous EA will likely end up being debated in court, delaying the project further.

FAA has dual mandate when it comes to commercial space: promote the industry while at the same time regulating it. The investigation into the SpaceShipTwo crash exposed that FAA was under political pressure to keep commercial space programs moving. Not just SpaceShipTwo but across the board. FAA knew the failure analysis for pilot error was deficient, but issued a waiver to allow the flight test program to continue. It was 15 months later that pilot error destroyed the ship.

So, I highly doubt that FAA’s delay had anything to do with accommodating SpaceX’s schedule, which is probably also delayed. An EA takes time to complete. The original Dec. 31 estimate was simply unrealistic. There were 18,000 comments to respond to in writing. FWS has serious concerns about endangered species that need to be addressed.

CNES Invites Micro and Mini Launch Operators to Apply to Operate From Guiana Space Center

Vega and Ariane 5 launch pads at Europe’s Spaceport. (Credit: ESA–Stephane Corvaja)

PARIS (CNES PR) — On Monday, December 20, 2021, CNES launched a call for applications to host micro and mini-launchers at the Guiana Space Centre, thus expressing, in close collaboration with ESA, its desire to open the spaceport of the Europe to new operators. Applicants have until January 31, 2022 to submit their application.

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Superior Court Judge Temporarily Blocks Purchase of Land for Spaceport Camden

Spaceport Camden launch complex (Credit: Camden County)

A Superior Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order preventing Camden County from purchases a 4,000 acres tract from Union Carbide to construct Spaceport Camden.

The order also scheduled an interlocutory hearing on a permanent restraining order for the purchase for 9:30 a.m. Jan. 5. Paul Harris and St. Marys council member James Goodman, who oppose the spaceport project as a waste of money, requested the restraining order on behalf of themselves and about 4,000 other county voters who signed a petition seeking a referendum on the purchase of the property.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued Spaceport Camden a site operator’s license Monday. But without the property the project is defunct.

The county’s option to buy the land from Union Carbide expires Jan. 13 unless it’s extended, as it has been previously. The probate court has 90 days from the filing of the signed petitions on Dec. 14 to vet the signatures and hold a special election. Petitioners are seeking to delay the purchase until the vote can take place.

The spaceport is being designed to support small satellite launch vehicles.

Camden County Officials Hail FAA Decision Granting Spaceport License

Spaceport Camden launch complex (Credit: Camden County)

WOODBINE, Ga. (Camden County PR) — Camden County, Georgia, a rocket testing location and alternate launch site for the Apollo program, has reclaimed its aerospace heritage with the issuance of a launch site operator license (LSOL) by the Federal Aviation Administration for Spaceport Camden. Spaceport Camden is a multi-user, vertical lift, commercial launch site on the Atlantic seaboard that will support up to 12 small vehicle launches per year. 

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SELC: FAA’s Spaceport Camden Review Fraught with “Factual Mistakes and Legal Errors”

Spaceport Camden launch trajectories (Credit: Camden County)

ATLANTA, GA (SELC PR) — In response to the Federal Aviation Administration’s announcement today to issue a record of decision on the license application for Spaceport Camden, the following statement is from Brian Gist, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center:

“Virtually from the start, the FAA’s review of Spaceport Camden has been fraught with factual mistakes and legal errors. We will carefully review the FAA’s decision to ensure that it fully complies with all applicable laws.”

The Launch Site Operator License is available here.

The Final EIS, ROD, and PA are available for download here.  

The Southern Environmental Law Center is one of the nation’s most powerful defenders of the environment, rooted in the South. With a long track record, SELC takes on the toughest environmental challenges in court, in government, and in our communities to protect our region’s air, water, climate, wildlife, lands, and people. Nonprofit and nonpartisan, the organization has a staff of 170, including 90 attorneys, and is headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., with offices in Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Chapel Hill, Charleston, Nashville, Richmond, and Washington, D.C.  southernenvironment.org