Critics of a proposed spaceport are questioning the credibility of a study that claims more than 30 percent of Georgia’s direct space industry jobs are already located in Camden County.
They say the Georgia Southern University study claiming 278 of the state’s 926 space industry jobs are in Camden County is misleading because the jobs are missile technician jobs at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay and have nothing to do with launches into space.
Steve Weinkle, a Camden County resident who lives less than 10 miles from the proposed launch site, questioned how the study could categorize missile technicians serving aboard Ohio-class submarines at Kings Bay as part of the direct space industry in the state.
“A ballistic missile follows a ballistic trajectory to deliver one or more warheads on a predetermined target,” he said. “The weapons are guided only during relatively brief periods. Most of the flight is unpowered.”
Weinkle also pointed out the ballistic missiles aboard submarines ported at Kings Bay have sub-orbital trajectories, unlike the small rockets proposed for launches into orbit if the spaceport is approved.
He described the Georgia Southern studies on the economic viability of a spaceport in Camden County as “fundamentally suspect and easily exposed as fiction.”
Weinkle said less than 1 percent of all jobs categorized as those in the aerospace industry in the state are actually employed in the space business.
“Universities were once sources of real research and knowledge, not propaganda,” he said. “Our commissioners spend our tax money on this kind of trick or treat. What a horror show.”
Athens lawyer Kevin Lang, a property owner on Little Cumberland Island, said the study is flawed because Georgia Southern likely used data provided by Camden County without confirming the information. The study is an attempt to mislead the public, he said.
“Making the case for small rocket launches is misleading,” Lang said. “They know when it comes to actual launches they have a problem.”
Opponents of the spaceport are concerned about the potential of a mishap during a launch from the proposed site. Launches from the mainland flying over Cumberland and Little Cumberland islands and environmentally sensitive marshlands in the region could be damaged if a launch is aborted or malfunctions.
Lang said even if the Federal Aviation Administration approves a launch site license, rockets will never leave from Spaceport Camden because the requirements for an actual launch license are much more stringent.
“They know when it comes to an actual launch, they have a serious problem,” Lang said. “A risk assessment would include Cumberland and Little Cumberland islands.”
Sparks from a bad launch could ignite a fire that Lang said could destroy every structure on Little Cumberland Island within several hours under the right wind conditions.
“A site license does not guarantee a launch license,” Lang said. “It’s dishonest to talk about launches. A launch will never happen.”