Spaceport proposed across from Cumberland
Floyd’s Neck (left-center), the site of the proposed spaceport on the mainland, is directly across from Cumberland Island (right).
Last October, the local newspaper reported that “Camden County residents could see the first-ever launch from a local spaceport as soon as 2018, and possibly much sooner.” When NASA discontinued the shuttle program, it left the door open to private companies to fill the void.
Where is this apparently soon-to-be spaceport located? It is, according to the local paper, an 11,000 acre site at the east end of Harriett’s Bluff Road, and it is immediately opposite the north end of Cumberland and Little Cumberland islands. The site has been previously used for many less than desirable activities, such as formulating the pesticide Seven dust, the construction of solid propellant rocket engines, the production of magnesium flares, and the production of the pesticide Temik, an aldicarb product, which results in hazardous waste.
The property was originally part of the John Floyd (1769-1839)/ Charles Floyd (1747-1820) plantations in an area called Floyd’s Neck. John Floyd was a brigadier general in the Georgia militia in 1812, a state Representative, a state Senator, and a Congressman. He is buried in the Floyd cemetery near Fairfield Plantation on the property. Charles Floyd was his father and is also buried in the family cemetery.
Advertisements for the private company promoting the spaceport said that the site seemed prime for a vertical launch, and that horizontal launches, which could be used for sub-orbital missions, such as space tours, could be established later. They envision two launch corridors, one north of Cumberland Island and one south. Does that mean that they will never launch directly over the island? Would that avoid necessary evacuations of the National Seashore prior to each launch?
The SpaceX port in Texas planned to have a 250 foot high water tank with at least 250,000 gallons of water available for cooling, sound and vibration suppression, and fire protection. Water is discharged during launch events, approximately 50,000 to 200,000 gallons, 50% of which is expected to vaporize, and the remaining to go to a retention basin. They advise that a plan “will be” developed to address potential vegetation changes presumably resulting from the vaporized water and thermal stress, and that the run-off water will be sampled and analyzed for controlled contaminant levels. The water at Floyd’s Neck will likely be withdrawn from the already stressed Floridan aquifer in Camden County.
How much of the 11,000 acre site will be left for the species which now inhabit it? There is presently a large gopher tortoise population on the site. The clearing necessary for the launch pad will probably be obvious from the Seashore, as will the large water tower. Light and sound pollution will likely degrade the park. Is there any way such intrusive development can enhance the National Seashore? According to the local paper, County Administrator Steve Howard completely ignored the existence of Cumberland Island when he described the potential launch site as being located on the ocean, so any consideration of the intervening National Seashore seems unlikely. What about the value of a non-developed coastline to the County’s well being? Priceless, but ignored.
This story originally appeared in the Cumberland Island Museum Newsletter.