WOODBINE — A spaceport in Camden County would have a “significant economic impact upon Coastal Georgia,” according to a study released this week by Georgia Southern University.
The study includes the impact of a 15-month construction project for the spaceport and associated infrastructure.
“Construction impact includes $7.21 million in direct revenue which grows to $9.23 million as these direct revenues move through the economy,” according to the study.
Once in operation, Spaceport Camden could generate $16.9 million in direct revenue, growing to an estimated $22.5 million, the study suggests.
The estimates are based on employment figures discussed in the ongoing Federal Aviation Administration’s environmental impact study.
Georgia already has 12 space companies with facilities in the state, employing 915 workers and generating more than $333 million to the state’s economy in 2015, according to the study.
The study identifies potential businesses, including Vector Space Systems, which conducted a suborbital launch at the site earlier this month, as well as Georgia-based companies such as SpaceWorks Enterprises and Masten Space Systems.
Camden County is a viable location for a spaceport because of the high-tech workforce at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, where an estimated 600 sailors a year retire, the study said.
A spaceport would also be able to coexist with Kings Bay, the study concluded.
“Nuclear powered warships have docked at Cape Canaveral, Fla., without incident,” the study said. “The Camden Spaceport should develop a similar agreement with the SUBASE.”
The county has a history with the aerospace industry dating back to the 1960s, when Camden County was considered a potential launch site for the Apollo program.
Solid fuel rocket testing at the proposed spaceport site was also cited in the study.
Launches could also impact tourism, based on turnout for launches at other sites, the study suggested.
Unmanned launches at Cape Canaveral host about 40,000 visitors.
Other sites typically see 10,000 to 15,000 people for orbital or suborbital launches.
Visitors to the spaceport in Brownsville, Texas, are expected to stay two to three days surrounding a launch event, the study said.
Camden County Administrator Steve Howard greeted the study with enthusiasm.
“When we started the process, we knew we had something special,” he said. “Even the most conservative estimates of Spaceport Camden’s potential shows tens of millions of dollars in economic activity and more than 100 new jobs.”
A longtime critic of the proposed spaceport, Steve Weinke, said the study was, “little more than a continuation of spaceport promotion and hype presented without any substance.”
He said the summary is “useless” because it does not provide facts or dates to back up their conclusions about the economic impact a spaceport in Camden County could have.
Weinkle also believes it will cost more to launch rockets over Cumberland Island National Seashore than at other ocean-fronting locations such as Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg and Kodiak.
“Virtually every claim of the so-called Camden Spaceport Study fails to acknowledge the actual failed results at every one of the existing non-NASA spaceports, or the competition that they represent,” he said in a statement. “It is hard to believe that Camden officials remain committed to a project that entails so much risk to taxpayers.”