(The Center Square) – The Federal Aviation Administration has approved Georgia’s license to operate the country's 13th commercial spaceport.
The federal agency has approved a rocket testing location and alternate launch site for the Apollo program in Camden County, called Spaceport Camden. It also is one of the top infrastructure projects in the country that could generate millions of dollars in economic benefits for Georgia.
“This once-in-a-generation opportunity will provide a new frontier of economic prosperity for Camden, the region and the state of Georgia,” said Steve Howard, Camden County administrator and Spaceport Camden executive project lead. "Georgia is part of the new space race, and we will become one of the leaders.”
Spaceport Camden will be the third vertical rocket lift facility in the country. More permits are required for operations to start officially. Developers chose Camden County because of its large military community. It also is home to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.
Officials said the spaceport could attract 4,000 to 5,000 visitors to the area. Georgia Southern University (GSU) estimated it would generate more than $22 million in annual economic activity and more than $9 million in economic activity from construction in the first 15 months of operations.
GSU estimated tourism from Spaceport Camden could increase the gross regional product of southeast Georgia by as much as $1.8 million and increase total business sales by as much as $3.6 million per launch. County officials predicted the project could create about 2,000 jobs.
Critics opposed the project because it would be the closest launch facility to a populated area. Environmentalists also fear the rockets from the spaceport could cause wildfires near the Cumberland Island National Seashore, one of the largest protected barrier islands on the Eastern Seaboard, private homes and historic sites located on Cumberland and Little Cumberland Islands.
The permit would limit launches during late-night hours to minimize noise. The spaceport must monitor noise levels using sound level meters during launch. The FAA also directed the spaceport to develop a wild land fire management and burn plan.
“With this license, Spaceport Camden offers coastal Georgia over 100 miles of opportunity,” Board of County Commissioners Chair Gary Blount said. “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.”