Camden County is facing a series of significant challenges in winning FAA approval to build a spaceport for vertical launches in the coastal Georgia county. At the root of the county’s problems: the launch site isn’t actually on the coastline.
“Camden County’s application includes populated areas within an overflight exclusion zone. Camden County has not demonstrated that it can control and manage the population in the vicinity of the proposed launch site, particularly on Little Cumberland Island,” according to a letter the FAA sent to county officials on Oct. 17.
WOODBINE, Ga., December 17, 2019 (Camden County Commissioners PR) – Camden County is nearing completion of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) process for approval to build a commercial space launch site.
A review of emails indicates the FAA has serious safety concerns about the proposed Spaceport Camden in Georgia that have been worsened difficulties getting information from Camden County. WABE reports:
In multiple emails obtained through open records requests by the Southern Environmental Law Center, FAA staff expressed concern about how Camden’s originally proposed launches could be safe enough for the population beneath its proposed rocket trajectories, which would cross over two barrier islands. And up until at least October, the county had not alleviated those concerns….
Eighty-three families own land and private homes on Little Cumberland, roughly 5 miles east of the proposed launch pad, and many have consistently voiced concerns about how a spaceport launch could safely happen over the island. Cumberland Island next door also has private residences and is largely controlled by the National Park Service as a protected National Seashore.
FAA staff also pointed out the plan to launch so close to overflight populations was unprecedented for the country’s vertical launch spaceports.
A group of island homeowners have strongly opposed the spaceport on safety reasons.
In a press release, Camden County officials claimed WABE’s report was erroneous.
Camden County is concerned with reports characterizing the FAA as struggling to get safety information from Camden County. This is not the case. First, Camden County sent its full flight safety analysis to the FAA in April 2017 and took the unprecedented step of publicly releasing an ITAR compliant version of its Flight Safety Analysis in 2019. Second, the actual emails released from the FAA in response to FOIA show that the FAA repeatedly calculated that Camden County could meet the regulatory thresholds with hundreds of people on Little Cumberland Island. Further, these emails demonstrate that the FAA explored opportunities with Camden County to ensure compliance with the FAA’s requirements.
FAA had planned to release a final environmental impact statement on the application earlier this week. However, last week Camden County amended its application, requiring the FAA to continue the review process.
The original application requested permission to launch up to 12 medium or large rockets per year with a dozen first stage landings. The modification requested approval for small launch vehicles with no landings.
The FAA has delayed the release of the final environmental impact statement on the proposed Spaceport Camden in Georgia after Camden County amended its application last week. The release had been scheduled for Monday. Dec. 16.
“On Dec. 14, 2019, Camden County notified the FAA that it was amending its launch site operator license application,” a FAA spokesperson said. “This amendment requires the FAA to conduct new analyses to address the fundamental changes to the application, and the FAA has agreed to toll its review of Camden’s license application per Camden County’s request.”
The original application requested approval to conduct orbital and suborbital vertical launches and landings of medium and large rockets.
“Launch operations would include preparatory activities to ready and test launch vehicles and systems, including up to 12 vertical launches and up to 12 associated launch vehicle first-stage landings per year,” the spokesperson said.
“This amendment removes the request for a medium-to-large rocket with return to a small rocket with no return,” she added.
Five years ago today, SpaceShipTwo VSS Enterprise broke up over the Mojave Desert during a flight test. Co-pilot Mike Alsbury died and pilot Pete Siebold was seriously injured.
The crash ended Virgin Galactic’s effort to begin commercial crewed suborbital spaceflights in the first quarter of 2015. Those flights are not forecast to begin in June 2020 — five years later than planned.
After 15 years of making extravagant but unkept promises to fly more than 600 “future astronauts” to space, Richard Branson must now please an entirely new group of people who are usually much shorter on patience: shareholders.
Following the completion last week of a merger with Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH), the British billionaire’s Virgin Galactic suborbital “space line” will begin trading under its own name on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Monday.
Going public now is an unusual move for a space tourism company that hasn’t flown a singlet tourist to space since Branson announced the SpaceShipTwo program in 2004. Some might see it has putting the cart before the horse.
WASHINGTON (DLR PR) — The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the Office of Commercial Space Transportation of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are seeking to identify the data that may need to be exchanged between United States and European Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) prior to, during and after a space launch or re-entry operation that is initiated in one country and traverses the airspace of another country.
This data exchange should facilitate improved situational awareness, allowing US and European ANSPs to respond as necessary in the event of a vehicle failure. To this end, the FAA and DLR intend to bring together their unique capabilities using FAA’s Commercial Space Integration Lab and DLR’s Air Traffic Validation Center, located in the USA and Germany respectively.
In order to be able to cooperate and exchange data in the future, a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) in the development of commercial space transportation was signed by Pascale Ehrenreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board, and Wayne R. Monteith, Associate Administrator, Office of Commercial Space Transportation, on 24 October 2019. The signatory ceremony was held at DLR’s stand at the 70th International Astronautical Congress in Washington, DC.
The MoC reflects the excellent collaboration that FAA and DLR have developed since the first Research and Development Cooperative Agreement of both establishments, which was signed in 2010.
Today, Sept. 27, marks the 15th anniversary of Richard Branson announcing the launch of Virgin Galactic Airways. It’s been a long, winding road between that day and today, filled with many broken promises, missed deadlines, fatal accidents and a pair of spaceflights.
This year actually marks a double anniversary: it’s been 20 years since Branson registered the company and began searching for a vehicle the company could use to fly tourists into suborbital space.
Below is a timeline of the important events over that period.
Last week, we took a look at the significant increase in NASA’s budget for FY 2019. In this story, we will examine the budget increases for the Commerce Department — which manages the nation’s weather satellites — and the Department of Transportation, which oversees commercial launches. We will also take a look how the White House’s National Space Council fared.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA’s satellite programs received $1,45 billion, which is an increase of $55 million over FY 2018. The bulk of the funding is designated for the GOES-R, Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Polar Follow-on (PFO) programs. The amounts include:
WASHINGTON (CSF PR) — “On behalf of the commercial spaceflight industry, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomes Brigadier General (Ret.) Wayne Monteith as the FAA’s new Associate Administrator for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation. He brings a wealth of space knowledge and leadership to the office, and we look forward to continued collaboration on policy and regulatory issues to continue the rapid growth of the U.S. commercial space transportation industry.
“Previously, Gen Monteith has held a variety of senior positions in the U.S. Air Force, including leadership of 15,300 military, civilian and contractor personnel responsible for launching U.S. government and commercial satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. He also had been the Air Force’s Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Space.
“The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation is pivotal to the commercial space industry’s continued growth and innovation. We are confident that Gen Monteith will continue its strategic role in the regulation and promotion of commercial launches and reentries that will strengthen and expand our nation’s space transportation capabilities and infrastructure.
“The Commercial Spaceflight Federation also thanks Kelvin Coleman for his leadership as Acting Associate Administrator. His leadership and deep understanding of the commercial space industry has been strategic and instructive during the transition. We are extremely appreciative of Kelvin’s commitment and look forward to continuing to work with him in his role as Deputy Associate Administrator and the rest of the talented, devoted team at AST.”
WASHINGTON (DOT PR) – U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine L. Chao today announced Wayne R. Monteith has been appointed to the position of Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Monteith’s appointment is effective January 20, 2019.
Monteith is a proven aerospace leader with nearly 30 years of planning and managing activities to integrate Department of Defense, civil, commercial, and intelligence community space capabilities. Monteith is a recently retired US Air Force Brigadier General who previously served as the Commander, 45th Space Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida and led operations for the busiest and most successful spaceport in the world.
Psychologists have identified five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are clearly on display in Virgin Galactic’s Rocket Man, Nicholas Schmidle’s profile of Mark Stucky in The New Yorker. A substantial part of the story chronicles how the test pilot dealt with the death of his close friend, Mike Alsbury, in the breakup of SpaceShipTwo Enterprise during the vehicle’s fourth powered flight four years ago.
It’s a touching portrait of Stucky’s grief for his fellow Scaled Composites pilot, with whom he had flown while testing the suborbital spacecraft being developed for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. (Stucky later moved over to Virgin, which took over the SpaceShipTwo program after the accident, to test the second SpaceShipTwo, Unity.)
However, Schmidle tells only half the story in his otherwise insightful profile. He places nearly all the blame on Alsbury, while ignoring the findings of a nine-month federal investigation that identified systemic flaws in the development program and the government’s oversight that contributed to the accident.
It’s similar to the flawed, self-serving narrative that Branson used in his latest autobiography, “Finding My Virginity,” complete with a not-entirely-fair jab at the press coverage of the crash. The billionaire uses pilot error to obscure a decade of fatal mistakes and miscalculations. (more…)