Study finds low fire risk from failed launches at Spaceport Camden |
ATLANTA — The risk of fire on Cumberland Island from a failed launch at a proposed commercial spaceport in Camden County is “so low it’s not credible,” according to a news report. study.
ARCTOS, an engineering consultant with more than 60 years of experience analyzing launch and re-entry risks, found only two scenarios in which a failed launch could result in a fire at Cumberland: a low-altitude rupture resulting in a fireball or debris hot enough to start a fire.
In the first case, according to the study, an in-flight explosion could not create a fireball large enough or last long enough to cause a fire on the ground. In the second case, the probability of debris hot enough to start a fire is low.
“Opponents at Spaceport Camden have said that ‘[their] the biggest concern is fire” which “destroys cottages and the natural environment, and possibly kills or injures residents,” said Gary Blount, chairman of the Camden County Commission. “The ARCTOS study conclusively proves that these fears are unfounded.”
The county has been the main driver behind Spaceport Camden as a potential economic engine for southeast Georgia and has spent $11 million to pursue it.
The project cleared a major hurdle late last year when the Federal Aviation Administration approved a launch site operator license allowing up to 12 small vehicle launches per year.
But spaceport proponents have suffered two significant setbacks this year. In March, Camden County voters overwhelmingly rejected a referendum that would have allowed the county to purchase a 4,000-acre site to house the facility.
Late last week, Union Carbide, which owns the site, announced that it no longer intends to sell the property to the county.
Kevin Lang, who owns property on the adjacent island of Little Cumberland, called the study a “red herring” by Spaceport Camden supporters to distract from obstacles blocking the project.
“I question the timing,” he said. “It appears to be an attempt to distract the public from the most relevant news.”
Lang also questioned the study itself. He said ARCTOS focused on an unrealistic launch trajectory.
“They’re launching the rocket almost straight up…to minimize downtime over Cumberland Island,” he said. “There has never been a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral with this trajectory that we know of. … The normal pattern would be flatter.
“Rockets are firing and exploding,” added Dick Parker, another Little Cumberland Island landowner. “That’s why in the United States we don’t launch rockets over houses.”
Despite the referendum, the county continues to pursue the land deal through an existing contract with Union Carbide. The case landed in the state Supreme Court, which has scheduled oral argument for August 23.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.