Spaceport Camden: 2020 Wrap Up

2020 has been an incredible year for Spaceport Camden and the aerospace industry. Going into 2021, Spaceport Camden is at T-1 with hopes of receiving an official launch site operator license in the spring. In an effort to mark key milestones Spaceport Camden has reached this year, below is a 2020 summary of Spaceport Camden’s and the state of Georgia’s aerospace momentum. 

April 2020: 
Camden County and Organic Code Development LLC announced their public-private partnership which will allow Spaceport Camden to become a fully integrated space and research center that incorporates rocket launch capabilities and a technology and research business park. Not only does this historic launch mark the beginning of the commercial spaceflight industry, but it marks a fruitful public-private partnership that can be successfully repeated. 

May 2020:
The FAA indicated Camden County’s revised Launch Site Operator License Application had cleared key milestones and would no longer request any information from the county except for those related to environmental and policy reviews. The average spaceport approval is 7.5 years’ time, placing Spaceport Camden ahead of schedule.

Camden County announced Opifex Global, a provider of aerospace training facilities advised by three former NASA astronauts, and Camden County entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explore commercial astronaut training facilities near the proposed spaceport.

May 2020 Continued:
Camden County received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the fifth consecutive year. This award, presented by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) of the United States and Canada, recognizes the Camden County Finance & Budget Department’s work on the annual budget for the fiscal year 2019-2020 and assess how well Camden County’s budget serves as a policy document, financial plan, operations guide and a communication device. 

On Saturday, May 30, the United States and SpaceX made history by sending astronauts into space for the first time since 2011. The Falcon 9 was launched at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. This historic launch has created momentum in our country’s space industry that we hope to maintain for Spaceport Camden and the state of Georgia’s aerospace industry.

June 2020: 
Atlanta, Georgia startup Carbice developed a nanotech-based thermal management material scheduled to launch on five satellites by the end of this year. The material, called Carbice Carbon, is designed to fill air gaps between computer chips, replacing epoxy or graphite-based materials to dissipate heat from electronics. Carbice’s thermal material is made of aluminum overlaid with carbon fibers and coated with a polymer. Carbice is focusing on space industry sales before marketing Carbice Carbon for data centers and other high-performance computing systems.

Six space launch companies were selected to receive Defense Department contracts funded under the Defense Production Act to shore up domestic industries financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each will receive noncompetitive contracts to launch two rideshare missions for government customers over the next 24 months. The CARES Act that Congress passed and President Trump signed on March 27 provided $1 billion for Defense Production Act efforts to ensure the availability of critical technology for national defense and investment in domestic industrial base capabilities.

The Space Foundation partnered with Colorado Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera to provide 10 free instructional webisodes to Colorado educators this summer. The innovative curriculum developed by the Space Foundation education team utilizes Immersive Education, which puts students in real-world scenarios where they can see the connection to real-world jobs. This promotes lifelong learning and interest in STEM careers and helps grow a community’s organic workforce and strengthen economic development. We hope to bring these STEM programs to Georgia one day.

Camden County received a National Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo). These awards honor innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents. This year, NACo recognized Camden County’s Paved Roadway Inventory and Assessment in the category of Transportation. Through partnerships, the county coordinated the assessment, video and documentation of the current paved roadway system of unincorporated Camden County. This assessment of the county allows staff, management and the board of commissioners to make critical decisions regarding the upkeep and maintenance of these roadways while relying on visual and statistical data.

Camden County announced Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC), and Camden County have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work cooperatively on establishing common operating environments for launch operators who wish to reach both polar and equatorial orbits. By working together, AAC and Camden County can better support launch vehicle operator needs and the emerging commercial space launch market, while strengthening both endeavors. 

July 2020:
Newt Gingrich believes we are beginning the next great space race. The U.S. is competing with China to be first to create systems for commercial space travel, to establish outposts on the moon and ultimately to colonize other planets. Never has the time been more important to discuss the future of space exploration and the importance of space as an infrastructure investment. He explores the space race between U.S. and China and humanity’s future in space more broadly in his podcast “Newt’s World.”

Georgia Tech engineering graduate and astronaut Shane Kimbrough will serve as a spacecraft commander for a collaborative mission between NASA and SpaceX. Kimbrough will lead Crew-2, a planned group of four astronauts, aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft flight to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

August 2020: 
NASA has established an office to coordinate rideshare launch opportunities for its growing number of smallsat science missions, taking advantage of excess capacity on launches of larger spacecraft. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) established the rideshare office earlier this year as part of broader efforts to promote the use of cubesats and other smallsats to carry out a wide range of missions.

September 2020: 
The FAA will issue a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Camden County, Georgia, launch site operator license application in the spring of 2021. The EIS will assess potential environmental impacts of the development of a commercial spaceport designed to accommodate small-lift launch vehicle operations, consistent with the county’s amended application. The FAA will issue the Final EIS without an additional public comment period.

October 2020:
Camden County Administrator and Spaceport Camden Project Lead Steve Howard was interviewed by the Space Foundation on their Space4U podcast. Here, Howard discussed Spaceport Camden, the area’s space history and the beneficial aspects of this project on Camden County, the state of Georgia and the region. Listen to the full interview, here.

Camden County and the Center for Business Analytics and Economic Research (CBAER) at Georgia Southern University released a new study on the economic impact of space tourism on coastal Georgia. The report estimates that a single launch could attract approximately 4,000-5,000 visitors to the area. CBAER estimates that 38 to 45 jobs connected to tourism and hospitality would be supported long term by the project as well. While there would be some additional new jobs as a result, the primary impact on employment would likely be adding more hours to existing employees, shifting employees from part-time to full-time work, or increasing their income due to increased customer traffic and visitor counts.

“With recent advancements and successes in rocket development and satellite technology, the U.S. space industry is entering a new commercial era. Considering the desire to locate launch sites near non-urban areas with an uninterrupted view of the southern Atlantic coast, Camden County has the characteristics necessary to develop a spaceport facility and compete in the burgeoning commercial
space industry.”

– 2020 Tourism Industry Economic Impact Summary

Separate studies from the consulting giant PwC and Georgia Southern University’s Center for Business Analytics and Economic Research (CBAER) demonstrate the business attractiveness of Spaceport Camden. PwC’s 2020 Aerospace manufacturing attractiveness rankings (PDF) lists the state of Georgia as the number one state in the country for aerospace manufacturing. Separately, a report by CBAER (PDF) at Georgia Southern University found that Camden County already accounts for 278 of Georgia’s 926 direct space industry jobs. According to CBAER, “Camden County has a significantly higher level of specialization in the primary launch sector than does the state of Georgia…the addition of a spaceport could help increase the employment and wages already present in this area.”

October 2020 continued: 
A student-led effort to get the University of Georgia’s first research satellite into space is finally a success. It took a few delays, but the small satellite SPOC, short for Spectral Ocean Color, had liftoff aboard an Antares rocket from the Wallops Facility in Virginia on Friday night, Oct. 2. It docked with the International Space Station on the morning of Oct. 5 and will deploy in a few weeks.

December 2020: 
The FAA officially published the Streamlined Launch and Reentry Licensing Requirements rule. This rule streamlines and increases flexibility in the FAA’s commercial space launch and reentry regulations, and removes obsolete requirements. It consolidates and revises multiple regulatory parts and applies a single set of licensing and safety regulations across several types of operations and vehicles. The rule describes the requirements to obtain a vehicle operator license, the safety requirements, and the terms and conditions of a vehicle operator license.

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