SpaceX program may come to Georgia

Photo by Josh Sandler

A site in Camden County, a coastal county in the southeast part of the state, is being considered by SpaceX as the location for a new launch site.

The prospect of a launch center in the state is greatly encouraging for those in the space field who would like to see Georgia play a bigger role in space exploration.

“The development of the spaceport, whether for SpaceX or for use by other companies is a very visible sign of Georgia’s contribution…to space commerce [should the site be used],” said Robert Braun, Tech professor of Aerospace Engineering and former NASA chief technologist.

Currently, not one of NASA’s Space centers or facilities is located in Georgia and there are no major space companies with launch sites in the state. As a result, many of Tech’s Aerospace graduates interested in careers in the space industry leave the state.

“They all go to California or Colorado or Florida or Texas, Virginia, places where there are space companies, places where there are space centers, those kinds of things,” Braun said. “And so effectively what we’re doing, and this is good for the country, … but if you look at it more locally, what we’re doing is we’re taking Georgia residents and we’re giving them a great education, a great opportunity and we’re turning them. We’re helping them gain high paying, high-tech jobs in other states.”

The site would not only provide jobs for the engineers who design and test rockets and spacecraft, but potentially for hundreds of others. This includes those jobs in the construction of the facility, payload construction, logistical support and associated manufacturing jobs in the state.

The Camden site, one of the original sites considered by NASA for the Kennedy Space Center, has several characteristics that make it attractive as a potential launch site.

“First of all, the site is right on the Atlantic Ocean so it, there’s a wide range of azimuths that one could launch out over the water not over a populated region,” Braun said. “A wide range of azimuths means a wide range of orbital inclinations that could be achieved by rockets taking various payloads into space.”

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Camden site is one of three sites under consideration by SpaceX, the other two being in Texas and Florida. Even if not selected by SpaceX, economic development officials say that other companies have expressed interest in the site.

The privately-owned company made history when the SpaceX–built Dragon cargo capsule became the first private commercial vehicle to dock with the International Space Station in May 2012. The company is taking strides to sending crew capsules to the space station within the next five years.

Camden County officials and SpaceX could not be reached for additional comments.