A pair of Chinese companies recently announced they were teaming up to build a massive new spaceport in Djibouti. If you were like me, you probably wondered: where is Djibouti? And why is China building a spaceport there?
Swedish and European Union (EU) officials inaugurated Spaceport Esrange on Friday as the sounding rocket range moved toward its first orbital launch later this year by an as-yet unidentified company. The ceremony came only days after Spaceport Cornwall in England hosted the first orbital launch attempt from Western Europe.
Camden County commissioners are taking Union Carbide to court in an effort to force the company to sell land for a planned spaceport in Georgia. The Associated Press reports:
Commissioners in coastal Camden County said in a statement Thursday that Union Carbide Co.’s refusal to sell the 4,000 acre (1,600 hectare) property, if allowed to stand, “will cause the County the loss of the Spaceport Project as well as an enormous financial loss in excess of $11 million.”
County officials have spent that sum over the past decade seeking to license and build Spaceport Camden, a site for launching satellites into space. Opponents say the project would pose safety and environmental risks that outweigh any economic benefits. The county held a referendum in March in which a large majority voted to kill the land deal.
Commissioners opted to disregard the vote, which they contend violated Georgia’s constitution. But Union Carbide balked at the county’s efforts to move forward with closing on the property. The company said last week that the deal was off because it had been “repudiated” by voters.
The county filed a civil suit Wednesday in Camden County Superior Court in hopes of keeping the spaceport project alive. Commissioners said the company still has a “contractual obligation to sell the property.”
Spaceport Camden would host small-satellite launches.
Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) says there is no longer a deal to sell 4,000 acres to Georgia’s Camden County for a spaceport after voters overwhelming rejected the project. But, the county disagrees. The Associated Pressreports:
“As a result, there is no longer an Option Agreement in existence between the County and UCC, and UCC does not intend to convey the property to the County pursuant to the prior Option Agreement,” said the statement, emailed to The Associated Press by Union Carbide spokesman Tomm Sprick.
Steve Howard, Camden County’s government administrator, provided a statement from the county’s lawyers insisting the deal isn’t over.
“Union Carbide most certainly has a contract with Camden,” the statement said. “The County has indicated that it is ready, willing and able to close. We expect Union Carbide to honor its contractual commitments.”
Camden County received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last December to launch small satellite from the planned spaceport site. Opponents, who are concerned about safety and skeptical about the projected economic benefits, gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the project. Seventy-two percent of votes cast were opposed to the project.
County officials ignored the vote and continued to pursue the project. The county is attempting to have the referendum declared invalid by the Georgia Supreme Court. A hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 23.
The subsidiary and license for launch operations are expected to enable launches from Brazil to space as early as 2023. Operations at Alcântara Space Center closely align with Virgin Orbit’s mission to open space for everyone, from everywhere, as the locale is geographically one of the most advantageous places in the world from which to launch satellites into orbit.
LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB) alongside the Brazilian Space Agency (Agência Espacial Brasileira; AEB) is pleased to announce that Virgin Orbit has been formally granted an operator’s license to allow LauncherOne launch operations in Brazil. The license is granted to Virgin Orbit Brasil Ltda. (VOBRA), a newly formed and wholly owned Brazilian subsidiary dedicated to bringing the LauncherOne air-launch rocket system to the Alcântara Launch Center (Centro de Lançamento de Alcântara, CLA).
The formation of the VOBRA entity for dedicated Brazilian space activities is designed to bring an important new capability to the country and economic value to the region. Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system, which uses a customized 747 aircraft, Cosmic Girl, as its flying and fully reusable launch pad, will conduct launches from the existing airbase at the Brazilian site, flying hundreds of miles before releasing the rocket directly above the equator — a global sweet spot — or at other optimal locations identified for each individual mission.
WASHINGTON (FAA PR) — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will require SpaceX to take more than 75 actions to mitigate environmental impacts from its proposed plan to launch the Starship/Super Heavy vehicle from Boca Chica, Texas.
ANDOYA, Norway (Andoya Spaceport PR) — Andøya Spaceport has entered into a cooperation agreement for the first construction phase with SEKK (Sortland Entreprenør and Karstein Kristiansen Entreprenør) and LNS in connection with the development of the spaceport on Andøya.
To disrupt a $4 billion market, Tom Marotta and co-founder Ian Vorbach of The Spaceport Company seek to deliver commercial launch and reentry facilities to providers around the world, starting with ocean-based platforms.
“The Spaceport Company builds commercial launch and reentry sites for launch and reentry operators,” said Marotta. “The demands for launch sites are exceeding the supply.”
The two founders hope to cater to the dozens of new launch entrants and the hundreds of payloads that are planned to be launched, at a time where demand for launch is at its highest ever.
“The challenge to build new spaceports have come from a regulatory and local, political standpoint. So, moving the spaceport offshore will not eliminate regulatory concerns, but it does significantly reduce the regulatory obstacles for building a launch site. So much so that the benefits of expedited regulatory approval far exceed the costs of operating offshore,” Marotta added.
WASHINGTON (FAA PR) — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is issuing a license to the Huntsville-Madison Airport Authority in Alabama to operate the Huntsville International Airport (HSV) as a commercial space reentry site.
The Georgia Supreme Court denied a request from Camden County for emergency relief to prevent the certification of a referendum in which residents voted overwhelmingly to rescind the county’s purchase of 4,000 acres from Union Carbide for the construction of Spaceport Camden.
The decision will allow Camden County Probate Judge Robert C. Sweatt Jr. to certify the results of the March 8 referendum in which 72 percent of voters cast ballots against the purchase of the property. The Currentreports that this is not the end of the county’s efforts to have the referendum voided as being illegal under the Georgia constitution.
With the fate of Spaceport Camden up in the air in a Tuesday referendum, the Camden County Board of Commissioners took action on late Friday afternoon that could allow it to invalidate a vote against purchasing the land for the facility.
Camden County Board of Commissioners appointed five members to the previously vacant Spaceport Camden Authority during a special meeting that started at 4:30 p.m. EST. The members include: County Commission Chairman Gary Blount, Commissioner Chuck Clark, former Commissioner David Rainer, retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert S. Dickman and businessman C.B. Yadav.
The Currentexplains what the commissioners might be up to:
Citizens who attended the Friday meeting voiced their concern that the commission is planning an end run around their vote by having the Spaceport Authority purchase the land. The option contract the county signed with Union Carbide allows the county to transfer the option with the consent of Union Carbide.
In public comment during the meeting, resident and spaceport critic Steve Weinkle asked the commissioners if the purpose of the appointments was to do just that.
They declined to answer.
“If they don’t wish to answer that question, then we can assume the worst,” Weinkle said.
The meeting came on the same day that a judge rejected the county’s attempt to invalidate the referendum as violating the Georgia constitution. The vote was triggered when opponents submitted signatures of 10 percent of active county voters as required under the state constitution.
Rep. Steven Sainz, who represents Camden County in the Georgia legislature, posted a video on Facebook saying this was not the purpose of the spaceport authority when he co-authored legislation that created it. The authority was created to work with companies that decided to launch from the spaceport. To date, the county has not announced any tenants.
Supporters of the spaceport say it will bring high tech jobs and tax revenues to the county. Opponents claim the benefits have been overstated, and that visitors to Cumberland Island National Seashore and private homeowners in the area would be at risk from launch failures.
The fate of Spaceport Camden in Georgia hangs in the balance as early voting continues on a March 8 referendum on whether to invalidate Camden County’s decision to buy 4,000 acres of land for the facility from Union Carbide. The Current reports that almost 2,000 residents had cast their ballots in early voting as of Friday.
On Friday, Superior Court Steven Scarlett rejected an appeal by Camden County to invalidate the referendum on the grounds that it violates the Georgia constitution. Scarlett authorized the county to file an appeal of his order.
The county argued that Probate Court Judge Robert Sweatt Jr. had misinterpreted the constitution when he ordered the referendum last month. Opponents of the project trigged the vote after submitting a petition signed by more than 3,500 active voters.
Camden County has spent $10 million in its effort to build the spaceport to host small satellite launch vehicles. Supporters argue it will bring high-tech jobs to the county and bolster local tax revenues.
Opponents argue the county has over stated the benefits of the spaceport. They also say rocket launches will endanger visitors to Cumberland Island National Seashore as well as private residences along the launch trajectory.
GRANTOWN ON SPREY, Scotland (SaxaVord UK Spaceport PR) — Construction of the UK’s first vertical launch spaceport is scheduled to begin in late March after it received planning approval from its local authority, Shetland Islands Council.
The approval provides Scottish Ministers with a 28-day window to review the application by SaxaVord UK Spaceport. Should Scottish Ministers choose not to call the application in for review, or call it in and agree that the project should proceed, construction of the £43m [USD $57.3 million] spaceport can begin.