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FAA Approves Commercial Launch Site for Proposed Spaceport in Southeast Georgia

Spaceport Camden, 40 Miles North of Jacksonville, Florida, Would Become 13th Licensed US Facility

The Federal Aviation Administration approved a launch site operator license for Spaceport Camden, a 12,000-acre facility proposed to be built in Kingsland, Georgia. (Spaceport Camden)

After six years of trying, a county in Georgia's southeast corner received approval to build a commercial launch pad for spacecraft that local officials say would create new economic and development opportunity for residents in a region largely dependent on a Navy submarine base for jobs.

The Federal Aviation Administration approved a launch site operator license for Spaceport Camden, a facility proposed to be built on about 12,000 acres off of Harriets Bluff Road near Woodbine, Georgia. The site is about 40 miles north of Jacksonville, Florida.

The FAA approval, which Camden County had sought since 2015, allows the county to move ahead with the acquisition of land for the project and construction on the spaceport itself.

The project would become the 13th licensed spaceport in the United States and one of a few vertical-lift facilities 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," Spaceport Camden said in a statement.

With the OK from the FAA, Georgia has entered the space race, according to Steve Howard, Camden County administrator and Spaceport Camden executive project lead. Camden County has a history in the country's space exploration efforts, having been a rocket testing site and an alternate location for NASA's Apollo program launched in the 1960s.

“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,” Howard said in a statement. “This once in a generation opportunity will provide a new frontier of economic prosperity for Camden, the region and the state of Georgia."

Spaceport Camden would become the third vertical-lift facility on the East Coast. (Spaceport Camden)

The facility would be designed to send equipment and satellites, and perhaps one day humans, into space in small spacecraft.

Before Camden County can acquire land for the spaceport from owners including Bayer's crop science group, it must contend with a lawsuit filed by opponents trying to block the spaceport and a petition signed by some 4,000 residents who want to force a referendum on whether the county should buy the land. A decision on the lawsuit aimed at stopping Spaceport Camden could come within a week, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"Opponents of Spaceport Camden have fought this project for more than 6 years. On the eve of a final FAA decision, they are now seeking a last-minute court order to prevent Camden County from closing on the property needed for the project," spaceport spokesman John Simpson said in an email. "This is a clear Hail Mary from desperate opponents that are reading the regulatory tea leaves and know their effort to hold Camden back is waning."

Camden County Board of Commissioners Chairman Gary Blount said the spaceport would greatly expand the area's economy.

"With this license, Spaceport Camden offers coastal Georgia over 100 miles of opportunity,” Blount said in a statement. “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."

A construction schedule for the spaceport has yet to be established.

"Buildout timeframes will be heavily dependent on the needs of specific users," Simpson said. "Having just received the FAA license yesterday, those discussions are just beginning so timelines have not yet been established."

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