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The FAA has granted Georgia a spaceport license

A planned commercial launch facility in Georgia was granted a license by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on December 20, but the facility still has legal and business difficulties.

The FAA has granted Camden County, Georgia, a launch facility operator’s license, commonly referred to as a spaceport license, for the projected Spaceport Camden. The license was granted following years of environmental studies of the site, as well as the county’s decision 2 years ago to concentrate on tiny launch vehicles instead of the larger ones originally planned for the site, which stalled the licensing process.

The FAA issued the license after issuing a written “record of decision” on the environmental reviews. The document outlined the proposed site’s environmental impacts, which would support a dozen small launch vehicle launches per year, as well as the mitigation measures needed to mitigate those effects, concluding that “all practicable means to prevent or reduce environmental damages from the Selected Alternative already have been adopted.”

County officials lauded the decision as a boon to the area’s economy, having invested an anticipated $10 million in spaceport plans. In a statement, Steve Howard, who serves as the project leader and county administrator for the spaceport, said, “This once in a generation prospect will bring a new horizon of economic success for Camden, the region, and the state of Georgia.”

The license is an important but insufficient step toward allowing launches from the site. Any corporation wishing to deploy from Spaceport Camden must first get an FAA launch permit, which involves environmental assessments. The license also forbids the county from engaging in a deal with a launch provider before it has secured a purchase or even lease agreement for the land on which the launch facility will be located.

Union Carbide, the firm that owns the site, has agreed to sell it to the county. However, a petition backed by thousands of county residents calls for a referendum on whether the county should spend any money on the property acquisition. A state court is considering the petition to determine if the referendum should be held in early 2022 and whether the county should be allowed to acquire the land in the meantime. If the vote passes, the project will be virtually killed.

Identifying potential customers of the spaceport is another difficulty for the county. Despite the fact that hundreds of tiny launch vehicles are in the works, none have yet committed to deploying from Spaceport Camden.

A remark from James Cantrell, CEO of Phantom Space, that is developing a tiny launcher, was included in the county announcement regarding the FAA license. He said, “Phantom Space is ecstatic to have Spaceport Camden fully operational.” The enhanced launch capacity complements our efforts to make space travel more accessible to the general public through dependable and responsive space transportation services.”

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