Spaceport Camden Opponents: Document Proves Launches Too Dangerous

Spaceport Camden launch trajectories (Credit: Camden County)

CUMBERLAND ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE, Ga. (Protect Cumberland Island PR – A document proving that the Cumberland Island National Seashore’s expected casualty rates from launches at Spaceport Camden exceed FAA limitations has been legally obtained from Camden County by a local citizen under the Georgia Open Records Act (GORA).

The document was included in a large batch of documents sent to a Camden County resident, Steve Weinkle, as part of a GORA request.

The document contains a graphic (below) which clearly indicates that Spaceport Camden was never realistically going to be permitted to launch a medium-large rocket over the Cumberland Island National Seashore.

This document is a memorandum from Spaceport Camden’s subject matter expert, Andrew Nelson, to the law firm that has been engaged to try and address the deficiencies in the Spaceport Camden draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The memorandum also confirms that the source of the very controversial designation of Cumberland Island campers, National Park Service employees, and residents of Little Cumberland and Cumberland Islands as “authorized persons” was created by Andrew Nelson as a “term of convenience” to sidestep an obvious conflict between launching rockets and private property rights and the safety of those downrange.

Stacey Zee, FAA Environmental Protection Specialist, stated in an email on March 28, 2018: “The term ‘authorized persons,’ as used in the DEIS, is a term that Camden has used to describe individuals who could remain in certain areas on Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island during operations at the proposed launch site. It is not a term used anywhere in FAA regulations. In accordance with 14 CFR 417.107, a launch operator may initiate flight only if the risk to any individual member of the public does not exceed a casualty expectation of one in one million per launch for each hazard. Therefore, a launch operator could not conduct a licensed launch from Camden if the risk to any member of the public, including those who remain on Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island, did not meet this requirement. A launch operator who intends to conduct launches from Camden may need to identify closure areas to meet this requirement.”

Despite this clear statement from the FAA, Mr. Nelson continues to tell Camden County officials and its counsel that campers, NPS staff, and private property owners and their visitors are not “members of the public,” but are instead “authorized persons.”

By declaring private property owners “authorized persons” who can remain downrange during rocket launches, Camden County has designated their lives and homes disposable. This diagram proves that.

The Red, Gold, and Yellow areas represent zones where the FAA expected casualty limits are   exceeded for a launch. The entirety of Little Cumberland Island and a significant portion of Cumberland Island are within this area. The Blue dots represent private homes. As Ms. Zee stated, FAA regulations will not allow a rocket to be launched where the expected casualty rate exceeds 1 casualty in 1 million launches.

The Red, Gold, and Yellow areas all exceed this expected casualty threshold. The calculations also do not take into consideration that neither the FAA or Camden County have control over the downrange population as they cannot evacuate or limit the number of owners or their visitors present on their private property.

For more information on the threats that Spaceport Camden poses to the Cumberland Island National Seashore, please visit ProtectCumberlandIsland.org.

About Protect Cumberland Island

Protect Cumberland Island was organized to create awareness of the threats that a proposed commercial spaceport presents to the Cumberland Island National Seashore. Rockets launched from the spaceport would travel directly above this unique National Seashore, requiring closure and evacuation of part or all of the island, and putting the island at risk of exploding rockets that drop burning fuel and parts. Our supporters include those visitors who frequent the Cumberland Island National Seashore as day hikers, campers, residents, researchers as well as individuals who have not yet experienced the unspoiled serenity of this national treasure.

  • In March 2018, then FAA/AST Acting Director Dr. George C. Nield signed the abstract to the Spaceport Camden Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“DEIS”) containing crucial errors, omissions, and fiction that did not follow NEPA or FAA requirements. The abstract includes this statement: “The FAA is submitting this Draft EIS for review pursuant to the following public law requirements: Section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) as amended (42 United States Code [U.S.C.] §§4321 et seq.);

    FAA Order 1050.1f.2-2.1.(3) declares the additional responsibility of FAA/AST to, “Independently and objectively evaluating applicant-submitted information and EAs and taking responsibility for content and adequacy of any such information or documents used by the FAA for compliance with NEPA or other environmental requirements;

    A review of the substantive public Comments made to FAA/AST demonstrate that the FAA provided insufficient resources to verifying the accuracy and integrity of the DEIS content.
    Link: https://www.spaceportfacts.org/draft-eis

    Irrespective of the desires of applicant Camden County or the FAA, law governing the National Environmental Protection Act has not been followed because the public was mislead by errors, omissions, and fiction in the Draft EIS.

    FAA/AST mishandling of the Spaceport Camden Draft EIS (now in its 3rd year) is proof of years of reports to Congress by the General Accounting Office that the FAA’s dual mandates to both regulate and promote Commercial Space Transportation can be fraught with conflicts of interest.

    A second example of the conflict of interest is that while the applicant Camden County has direct communication within FAA/AST, the same office has refused to process multiple citizen-generated Freedom of Information Act requests stretching back to 2016.

    FAA/AST does not appear to take its legal responsibilities for public safety and property rights seriously. The waste to the public for this impaired and unnecessary project now exceeds $6,000,000 plus what is claimed are limited FAA resources. It’s time for FAA/AST to put on some big-boy pants and execute FAA Order 1050.1f.7-1.3: “Under certain circumstances, the FAA may choose to terminate an EIS.”

  • ThomasLMatula

    It looks like for this spaceport the FAA AST is treating the folks down range with the same disregard the Chinese do.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJRZ-eyncVk

  • duheagle

    No problem. Just condemn both islands, buy out the inhabitants and get the National Wildlife Refuge designation revoked.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Hey man, don’t diss’ reuse Chinese style. That’s just urban renewal, toxic propellant abatement and aluminium recycling going on all in one town. Don’t forget Camden is being done on behalf of corporations. All Vector has to do is say they wan’t nothing to do with anything that does not respect or steps on private property or endangers any 3rd party. I’m very glad to see you’re a good alert American when powerful governments step on private property but I wonder how often you get upset when corporations do it, or when corporations have governments do it for them?

  • ThomasLMatula

    The local government was pushing this site as a Spaceport long before Vector. They will keep pushing it without them. As for Vector, when they see what their insurance costs are they will move on to a more suitable Spaceport.

  • duheagle

    Yes. Always trust the lefties to come out of the woodwork and start making libertarian noises when some nest of rich progs might get their private island pulled out from underneath them.