Spaceport Camden is starting the new year at T-1 with hopes of being granted a launch site operators license in 2021. As we begin the new year, the FAA will issue the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Camden County, Georgia, launch site operator license application in the spring of 2021. The EIS assesses potential environmental impacts of the construction and operation 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.
Despite what some may think about the relationship between spaceports and the environment, for decades United States space programs have succeeded in coexisting with some of the most pristine environments in the country. National seashores have been balancing nature and space activities for over 50 years.
For example, Kennedy Space Center sits in the middle of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge adjacent to Canaveral National Seashore (CANA). The refuge supports one of the highest numbers of threatened and endangered species anywhere in the nation.
At Wallops Island, Virginia, Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport has two national wildlife refuges and a national seashore. Wallops Island is acclaimed as the longest expanse of coastal wilderness remaining on the eastern seaboard of the U.S.
Supporting the premise that nature, humans and spaceport operations may co-exist, an analysis conducted pursuant to FAA safety criteria concluded the likelihood of an individual getting hurt or worse on Cumberland Island and or Little Cumberland Island ranges from less than 1 in 10 million to less than 1 in 1 billion per launch and does not require any special precautions by residents, visitors or guests. This is 10 to 100 times less risk for a person than being hit by lightning over the course of a year. After 300,000 simulations of rocket failures by both the FAA and The Aerospace Corporation, they have independently determined that the probability of an intact impact explosion caused by a fueled rocket hitting the ground on Little Cumberland Island and or Cumberland Island from Spaceport Camden is nil.
In 2021, Spaceport Camden looks forward to fostering a strong relationship with Georgia’s coastal environment as the Launch Site Operator License is in sight.
Record Year for FAA Commercial Space Activity
A record number of launches, new streamlined launch and reentry licensing regulations, and a historic licensed crewed mission are some of the noteworthy commercial space transportation achievements of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2020. The FAA will build on these accomplishments in the coming year. In 2020, the FAA licensed 41 commercial space operations (launches and reentries), the most in the agency’s history. Those operations included a record 39 FAA-licensed launches, including the first-ever NASA crewed mission to be licensed by the FAA. For 2021, the FAA is forecasting the number of licensed operations could reach 50 or more.
Space economy hits $385B in 2020, with commercial revenues over $310B
In its latest research product “The Space Economy Report 2020”, Euroconsult estimates that the consolidated space economy, including both government space investments, as well as commercial space, totaled $385 billion in 2020, a record amount. Added to these commercial revenues are the $70 billion invested by government space budgets in 2020 (excluding government expenditures on commercial services, counted as commercial revenues), a 10% increase over 2019 government spending. There was no visible impact in 2020 on government space investments as budgets were voted before the pandemic, though the sustainability of these high government space investments post-Covid remains to be seen. The report provides an overview of global space trends across the entire space value chain, with a special section on 2020 in Review.
NASA, FAA Partnership Bolsters US Commercial Space Activities
NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) reaffirming the agencies’ longstanding relationship to foster robust American commercial space transportation capabilities, including commercial crew and cargo activities. The new agreement will support the transportation of government and non-government passengers, cargo and other payloads for orbital and suborbital space missions in a safe and cost-effective manner, as well as streamline spaceflight standards and requirements.
Under the MOU, NASA and the FAA will focus on building a clear framework for private industry to follow for commercial launch and re-entry, as well as coordinating an approach for sharing safety data with the public to enhance understanding of the known risks of commercial space travel. NASA also will collaborate with the FAA on the licensing of orbital and suborbital flights, facilitating new space technologies and research opportunities, and advancing point-to-point commercial suborbital pilot programs. The FAA is responsible for the regulations governing commercial space launch and re-entry licensing.
GSGC Lights, Camera, Explore Video Contest
The Georgia Space Grant Consortium (GSGC) is hosting a contest for Educators in their K-12 classrooms called Lights, Camera, Explore. Students will explore a STEM-related concept of their choosing and create a YouTube-style video to teach other students. GSGC will support localized within classrooms/schools/districts throughout the semester and in May will choose a grand prize winner from each of the local contest winners. Local winners will receive a certificate and the grand prize winner will get a certificate, a GSGC prize pack and have their video professionally edited and featured on GSGC media. GSGC will be hosting an information session about the video contest with more details. For more information, read here.
Celebrate the Perseverance Rover Landing With NASA’s Student Challenge
The Mission to Mars Student Challenge is a fun and engaging way for students to join NASA as the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover lands on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021. Classrooms, informal education groups, families and individuals can design, build and land their own spacecraft just like NASA scientists and engineers do. The Mars 2020 STEM toolkit is available and is filled with activities, videos, and more. Register here for more information.