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Wed, Mar 14, 2018

FAA Releases Draft EIS For Camden Spaceport

Key Milestone In County's Quest For Commercial Space Operations

The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) has released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the potential environmental impacts that may result if FAA issues a Launch Site Operator License to the Camden County Board of Commissioners (the County) to operate a commercial space launch site, called Spaceport Camden, on the Atlantic seaboard in Camden County, Georgia.

The County could offer the commercial space launch site to vertical launch vehicle operators for the orbital and suborbital launch of small to medium-large, liquid propellant launch vehicles. Orbital launch vehicles are classified based on the maximum payload weight in pounds according to orbital inclination; at 90-degrees inclination: small is less than or equal to 3,300 pounds; medium is greater than 3,300 to less than or equal to 8,400 pounds; medium-large is greater than 8,400 to less than or equal to 15,000 pounds. Launch operations would include preparatory activities to ready and test launch vehicles and systems, including mission rehearsals and static tests, and for any first-stage landings on the space launch site or returns to the launch site after landing on a barge located about 200 to 300 miles off shore in the Atlantic Ocean.

The EIS evaluates the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts of construction and operation of the proposed launch site that would result from FAA’s Proposed Action to issue a Launch Site Operator License to the County for Spaceport Camden. The launch vehicle operator would be required to obtain a license to launch the specific vehicle or class of vehicle from the launch site. Impacts evaluated in this EIS include those related to construction and operation of the proposed Spaceport Camden, including impacts that could result from the launches of a representative launch vehicle. Future proposed activities that are outside the scope of this EIS could require additional environmental analysis under NEPA. A supplemental environmental analysis could be required when one or more of the parameters of the proposed construction or launch activities fall outside what is analyzed in this EIS.

Spacenews.com reports that the proposed spaceport would be built on land that had been used by Thiokol for the assembly and testing of solid rocket motors. Facilities would include a vertical launch site, landing pad, and support buildings. The county is proposing up to 12 launches per year of small and "medium-large" spacecraft on east and east-southeast trajectories.

The draft report says only that the launch site is the "preferred alternative", and the impacts on air and water quality, noise pollution and visual effects do not pose obvious conflicts with local or federal regulations that could not be resolved.

Opponents of the spaceport, including the local group "Protect Cumberland Island", said in a statement that it plans to begin a new effort to raise awareness about what it says are the potential risks of the proposed spaceport.

(Image from FAA draft EIS)

FMI: Original report, Draft EIS

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