A Glynn County resident points to the mouth of the Satilla River near where the proposed spaceport will be located during a public hearing. The FAA recently released environmental impact study about the potential site, in brown to the left, for a spaceport in Kingsland, Georgia. The yellow marks indicate where rockets will be launched and land if approved by the FAA. (AJC Photo/)
Photo: Stephen B. Morton
Photo: Stephen B. Morton

Coast Guard seeks comment on safety zones near proposed spaceport

The U.S. Coast Guard is considering a request to create launch safety zones around a proposed rocket launch pad in Camden County.

The county is pursuing the creation of Spaceport Camden, a commercial launch pad proposed on a 12,000-acre facility in Kingsland. Camden officials have spent about $3.5 million the past few years trying to secure a license from the Federal Aviation Administration to move forward with the project.

The Coast Guard this week placed an ad in the federal register seeking public comments about safety zones surrounding the proposed launch site.

Deby Glidden, homeowner on Little Cumberland Island, speaks about why she opposes a spaceport being built in Camden County. Deby has owned property on the private, secluded island for about 40 years. (ALYSSA POINTER/ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION)

The federal agency is accepting comments through Oct. 11 and plans to schedule a public meeting to hear comments in person. To submit a comment online, visit www.regulations.gov.

Spaceport Camden officials would be responsible for limiting or restricting access to the safety zones during launches, when boaters would not be allowed into the waterways near the site. The safety zone would be in effect anywhere from two to 12 hours, depending on the size of the rocket being launched.

Steve Howard, the spaceport’s project lead and Camden County administrator, said the Coast Guard’s creation of safety zones will be an important part of the project’s licensing. Howard said that the areas in the Coast Guards request for comments is larger than it would be during an actual launch.

“Individual launch safety zones could be smaller and depend on several factors unique to each event, such as actual trajectory, size of the launch vehicle and payload,” he said.

Proposed safety zones are mostly areas around the launch site, including Shellbine Creek, Cabin Bluff, Cumberland River, Saint Andrew Sound and about 13 miles east into the Atlantic Ocean.

The FAA is reviewing public comments submitted earlier this year to determine how much the spaceport would negatively impact the surrounding area. It is expected to release the final economic impact statement later this year.

Spaceport officials are courting private companies to launch up to 12 times a year from the proposed site.

Supporters say the project will bring good-paying jobs to the area and boost the coastal county’s economy. Homeowners say they are worried about rockets being launched over their homes.

Camden still would have to clear several steps, including a separate safety review, before it could be awarded a permit for the project.

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