KINGSLAND, Ga. -- A federal agency has yet again pushed back a final decision on whether to allow the construction of a launchpad for commercial rockets in coastal Georgia.
The Federal Aviation Administration plans to release its decision on Spaceport Camden by Dec. 15 rather than this Wednesday, agency spokesman Steve Kulm said. An agency statement cited a delay caused by “ongoing consultation efforts.” The final determination was originally expected at the end of July but now has been delayed at least three times.
Camden County, in the southeast corner of Georgia, wants to build the nation's 13th licensed commercial spaceport and has spent nearly 10 years and $10 million pursuing that goal. The FAA in June issued an environmental impact study that concluded building the spaceport would be its “preferred alternative.”
That drew pushback from the National Park Service and its parent agency, the U.S. Department of the Interior. In a July 22 letter to the FAA, the Interior Department said a chance of rockets exploding and raining fiery debris onto the federally protected wilderness on Cumberland Island creates an “unacceptable risk.” Known for wild horses and nesting sea turtles, Cumberland Island draws about 60,000 visitors each year.
Local officials say the county of 55,000 people would get a soaring economic boost by joining the commercial space race, with a private launch pad luring both supporting industries and tourists.
It’s not clear how much weight the objections will carry with the FAA, which is responsible for licensing U.S. commercial rocket launch sites. In 2014, the agency approved SpaceX’s launch site in Texas over objections by the Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.