Spaceport Camden: The Gateway to Space
The history of Camden County, Georgia as a launch site dates back to the 1960s where during the height of the Apollo program, Camden County was considered as a potential launch site. This information was officially declassified in 2005. The Thiokol Corporation tested the world’s most powerful rocket engine in preparation for flights to the moon. These tests were done on the exact site of the proposed spaceport. As a result, Camden County, Georgia was declared the “Gateway to Space” and shared an issue of Life Magazine with Frank Sinatra.
The space business in Camden County was scarce for the following 50 years, and by the late 2000’s, the manufacturing sector had dried up. Space looked to be out of reach for Camden County until 2013.
In 2013 and 2014, Camden County was visited by two now major space companies, SpaceX and Blue Origin. Both companies were interested in the Apollo test site for their next generation of launch vehicles. SpaceX was considering the site to test launch the now well-known Falcon 9 rocket, which had yet to be developed. Blue Origin was looking for launch sites on the East Coast for their new project, Project Panther. Blue Origin named Camden County a top finalist for Project Panther, a $200 million investment which would have made Camden County the launch site for their orbital launch vehicles and the associated manufacturing facility.
Unfortunately, Camden County did not have a launch license and was unable to close on either deal. SpaceX chose a site in Texas and Blue Origin chose Cape Canaveral for launch testing. However, these events alerted the Camden County board of the special opportunity for their county and the state of Georgia.
This did not discourage Camden County. In 2017, the state of Georgia saw their first ever commercial rocket launch with micro satellite launch startup, Vector. Here, Vector completed their first suborbital launch and test flight of their Vector-R launch rocket. This launch represented both the first customer-funded launch operation for the new space commercial launch industry, as well as the first launch out of Spaceport Camden.
In addition, in 2019 students from Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jacket Space Program received FAA approval to use Camden County’s launch site to launch their Class II amateur test rocket. The launch was fully designed by the aerospace engineering students and allowed them to validate the rocket control system, aerodynamics and design.
Since these launches, six different small rocket launch companies have contacted Camden County and have expressed interest in the launch site.