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.
“In the 20th century Camden County was declared the ‘Gateway to Space.’ With this license, we have retained that title again in the 21st century,” said Steve Howard, Camden County Administrator and Spaceport Camden executive project lead. “This once in a generation opportunity will provide a new frontier of economic prosperity for Camden, the region and the state of Georgia. Georgia is part of the new space race, and we will become one of the leaders,” added Howard.
“It has been long time coming, but Camden County is immensely proud of this accomplishment. With this license, Spaceport Camden offers coastal Georgia over 100 miles of opportunity,” said Board of County Commissioners Chairman, Gary Blount. “We are no longer a one-dimensional economy solely reliant on the brave sailors and contractors at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay for economic prosperity,” added Blount.
Spaceport Camden becomes the thirteenth licensed spaceport in the United States, but just the third vertical lift facility on the East Coast. Vertical lift comprises the lion’s share of commercial space activity and low latitude east coast launch sites are preferred due to the extra velocity provided by the rotation of the Earth.
Located below 31 degrees of latitude, Spaceport Camden takes advantage of free boost velocity from the earth’s rotation to maximize payload and minimize fuel necessary to reach orbit. As a result, Spaceport Camden’s location offers similar launch characteristics to Cape Canaveral, the world’s busiest spaceport.
Camden County is the ideal location to meet growing launch demand from the commercial space industry - a $447 billion industry that Bank of America predicts will grow to $3 trillion by 2047. Not only does Camden County have a highly trained military workforce that can transition upon retirement to employment into the commercial space industry, the surrounding area has transportation infrastructure such as roads and rail that can provide support to the investment community.
Dr. George Nield, former head of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) and Chair of the Global Spaceport Alliance heralded the decision. “Having served as the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the FAA when this proposal was first presented to the agency, I have been impressed with Camden County’s perseverance in shepherding the project through the regulatory process. Spaceport Camden will provide much needed additional vertical launch capacity on the east coast and help to encourage both aerospace investment and an increased focus on STEM education in Southeast Georgia,” said Nield.
Jim Cantrell, CEO of Phantom Space, joined Dr. Nield in emphasizing the importance of an additional launch site on the east coast. “Phantom Space is thrilled to see Spaceport Camden open for business. The additional launch capacity aligns well to our efforts to make access to space commonplace with reliable and responsive space transportation systems. Congratulations to Steve Howard and Camden County on this milestone achievement.”
Spaceport Camden comes online of increasing demand for vertical lift launch capacity. A recent study for the Pentagon found that the majority of US Spaceports are unsuitable for future launch needs because they are horizontal, not vertical launch sites like Spaceport Camden. The study notes, “[d]ue to the inherent performance limitations of horizontal launch, the future space economy will be dependent on vertical launch.”
The study also found that without additional vertical lift capacity at sites like Spaceport Camden “…the U.S. will still remain precariously dependent on a handful of key spaceports – a dependency that, if not resolved, will undermine U.S. interests strategically and commercially in the next decade.”
Launch providers seeking to utilize Spaceport Camden will still need to have their individual vehicles approved by the FAA to launch from Spaceport Camden - a standard requirement under the agency’s rules. All launch vehicles must be individually licensed at every spaceport they intend to utilize pursuant to 14 CFR 450. Camden County is looking forward to supporting a wide variety of small-lift launch vehicles and azimuths in the future.