Private space port planned beside Cumberland

November 4, 2014  |  Ear to the Sand

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A private space shuttle launch facility could be built directly across from Cumberland Island as soon as 2018, according to local leaders in Camden County. SpaceX has already begun construction of a private space port in Brownsville, Tex., and it hopes to build a second launch facility along the East Coast in the coming years. Camden County — already home to Kings Bay Nuclear Submarine Base — is on the short list of potential sites.

The private space port would be built on an 11,000 acre Superfund site. It was previously owned by Thiokol Chemicals to test-launch rockets in the 1960s, and then later operated by Union Carbide, which produced pesticides. The site has been leaking toxic waste for decades.

Camden County officials are eager to attract the space port, but its impacts on Cumberland Island National Seashore and surrounding marshland and marine ecosystems would be devastating. Former Cumberland Island Superintendent Fred Boyles said the space port would likely result in regular closures of the island to all visitors–at least once or twice a month, sometimes for days at a time depending on weather and other factors.

The impacts of noise, fuel, and pollution will also need to be considered as part of the environmental impact statement that must be prepared before the space port is approved by the federal government.

According to the Tribune-Georgian, once the land purchase agreements are secured with SpaceX, Camden County can begin the 18-month environmental impact statement process. Public input will also be an important part of the study. The county is epxected to offer $15 million in tax incentives to attract the space port.


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