Could Camden County become home to the nation's next spaceport?

It will if Gov. Nathan Deal and Camden County officials have anything to say about it.

The state is touting the former Thiokol Chemical plant near Woodbine as an ideal location for SpaceX, a company that delivers cargo to the International Space Station. The ability to launch directly over the ocean is appealing to companies sending rockets into orbit.

Right now, it is one of three sites being considered for a rocket-launching facility. Other sites being considered are in Texas and Florida.

"The Camden County site meets every requirement the commercial launch industry needs: Flights happen over the ocean, weather permits year-round operations, population is limited, and cities and infrastructure are close enough to be accessible," said Michael Mealing, president of the Georgia Space Society.

The site comes with a 12,000-foot runway and a rocket-engine testing facility.

Mealing said the location is described by analysts as "the best location in the country for a commercial spaceport."

Deal has become involved in trying to lure the company to Georgia, where incentives include free land, job creation assistance, equipment and machinery tax breaks and workforce training.

The site once was the Thiokol Chemical plant, built in 1964 to test and build solid rocket propellent engines for NASA that were never used for space flight.

When the decision was made by NASA to use liquid fuel to launch rockets in the 1960s after the plant was built, Thiokol modified its production facilities and was awarded a contract to manufacture flares for use during the Vietnam War.

In 1971, the plant received international attention when an explosion killed 29 people during the production of flares, injuring dozens of others.

Since then, the plant has manufactured different products. Most recently, Bayer CropScience manufactured the insecticide Temik at the site. The company will stop manufacturing the product by 2014 and close operations there.

Now, the site is considered an ideal location to launch commercial space flights.

St. Marys Mayor Bill Deloughy believes the Camden site is the best under consideration, but he isn't certain if location will be the only consideration before a decision is made.

"I think we have the best product," he said. "What a boost that would be. I think it's an opportunity."

If the company chooses Camden County, Deloughy said the entire region could see a positive economic impact.

"They are very high-paying jobs," he said. "You couldn't believe the ripple effect."

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about government and other local topics. Contact him at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 323.

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