Information on the Coast Guard Safety Zones and Public Meeting

Camden County’s application to the FAA for a launch site operator license (LSOL) proposes up to 12 annual launches and landings (with one possible nighttime launch and landing per year) and up to 24 tests (up to 12 wet dress rehearsals and up to 12 static fire tests). The tests will occur near, and the trajectory of these launches would take the rockets over, various navigable waterways, creeks and tributaries, and areas offshore. All of these offshore areas, navigable waterways and tributaries are under the jurisdiction of the United States Coast Guard (USCG).

Spaceport Camden is required to limit or restrict access to areas surrounding the launch site to meet the FAA’s safety requirements. As one element of meeting these requirements, the Board of County Commissioners of Camden County, Georgia requested that the USCG determine the feasibility to establish safety zones which would be enforced during launch, landing, and rocket test activities at the site. The USCG Marine Safety Unit (MSU) / Savannah is authorized to establish safety zones over areas of water and/or shore for safety or environmental purposes pursuant to 33 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 165.

On September 11, 2018, the USCG issued a request for comments in the Federal Register seeking input on the proposed safety zones for Spaceport Camden. There are two separate and distinct types of safety zones under consideration:

  • Test Safety Zone – An area within a one nautical mile radius around the launch pad at Spaceport Camden. This is a conservative safety zone; in all cases evaluated to-date, approximately 4,050 feet or less would be needed to meet the safety requirements for static fire tests and wet dress rehearsals. (See figure 1.)
  • Launch/Landing Safety Zone – A polygon comprised of 9 geographical reference points around the proposed launch site that extends approximately 12 nautical miles offshore. This polygon represents the range of potential safety zones for launch and landing activities for all potential trajectories between 83 and 115 degrees from true North for the largest possible vehicle proposed to be launched from Spaceport Camden. (See figure 2.)

It is important to note that:

  • The actual launch/landing safety zones would be smaller depending on several factors unique to each event, such as actual trajectory, size of rocket, and payload.
  • The proposed safety zone boundaries do not represent areas of permanent closure. Safety zones will only be in effect during specific activities at Spaceport Camden.

For launch activities, the safety zone is anticipated to be in effect for approximately four to six hours for medium-large vehicles (i.e., a rocket similar in size to the Falcon 9), but not longer than twelve hours. For small launches (i.e., those similar in size to ABL and Vector rockets), the safety zone is anticipated to be in effect for two to three hours. For test operations, the safety zone around the Spaceport Camden launch pad is anticipated to be in effect for approximately 60 minutes or less.

The USCG wants to hear from you, and is seeking comments until October 11, 2018. Please submit your comments directly to the USCG at: https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=USCG-2018-0845-0001. In addition, the United States Coast Guard will hold a public meeting in Camden County this Thursday, September 27 at the Camden County Public Service Authority Recreation Center, 1050 Wildcat Drive, Kingsland, Georgia 31548 from 5:00 to 7:00 pm to receive comments.

Figure 1. Spaceport Camden, Medium Large Rocket, Proposed Test Safety Zone

Figure 2. Spaceport Camden, Medium-Large Rocket, 83 to 115 Deg. Trajectories, Max. Safety Zone Boundary

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.  Will these areas be closed off permanently?

A.  No, a safety zone will only be in effect during launch and/or test operations at Spaceport Camden. Spaceport Camden anticipates a maximum of 12 launches per year and up to 12 each (up to 24 total) static fire and/or wet dress rehearsals per year.

Q. How long will these safety zones be in effect?

A.  For launch activities, the safety zone is anticipated to be in effect for approximately four to six hours for medium-large vehicles (i.e., a rocket similar in size to the Falcon 9), but not longer than twelve hours. For small launches (i.e., those similar in size to ABL and Vector rockets), the safety zone is anticipated to be in effect for two to three hours. For test operations, the safety zone around the Spaceport Camden launch pad is anticipated to be in effect for approximately 60 minutes or less.

Q. Why is the launch safety zone so large in the USCG Request for Comments?

A. The launch safety zone represents the range of potential safety zones for launch and landing activities using trajectories between 83 and 115 degrees from true North. Individual launch safety zones would be smaller and depend on several factors unique to each event, such as actual trajectory, size of rocket, and payload.

Q.  So as long as I stay outside these safety zones, I don’t need to know where the safety zone is specific to that launch?

A.  The launch safety zone boundary represented in the USCG Request for Comments is over-inclusive, showing where a safety zone may lie for a launch of a medium-large launcher along an 83 to115 degree trajectory. Actual restricted access areas would be smaller depending on several factors unique to each event, such as actual trajectory, size of rocket, and payload.

Q.   Would the proposed safety zones apply to both recreational boaters and commercial vessels?

A.  Yes, the area within the safety zone would be restricted for all vessels, both commercial and recreational. During the safety zone active time slot, vessels would be prohibited from entering, transiting through, anchoring in, or remaining within the safety zone unless specifically authorized by the USCG Captain of the Port (COTP) Savannah or a designated representative.

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