Georgia Tech Students To Conduct Test Rocket Launch At Spaceport Camden

Mar 28, 2019

Students from Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jacket Space Program will be in Camden County this weekend to conduct a rocket test.

The test launch is being conducted to give students hands on experience controlling a rocket.

Alton Schultheis, 23, an aerospace student at Georgia Tech, said that experience is extremely valuable to him and other students going forward, “because the rest of what our organization does in developing much larger, much more complex vehicles that require this same baseline type of math and understanding.”

John Simpson, spokesman for Camden County, said it’s actually quite common for people in the aerospace industry to conduct these kinds of suborbital tests.

“You don’t need to go very high to get a lot of data,” he explained. “So even your big companies, whether it’s SpaceX or Blue Origin, they will routinely do these sort of suborbital launches because you can collect so much data just by going a couple thousand feet up.”

The launch is being held at Spaceport Camden because the tests being conducted by the Georgia Tech students require the rocket to be flown at high altitudes. There are height restrictions on amateur rocket launches and Schultheis said it was easier for the school to get the waivers they needed through the spaceport.

The launch has been authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“We’ve gone through all the standard protocols working with them on the FAA license. We have a safety review coming up later this week. All of our folks from the county that would normally be present at a launch, we go through all of those operations with them,” said Simpson. “In fact our own aerospace engineer will be here to assist with the launch to make sure we go through all of our safety protocols as well. So this is also kind of a dry run from the county’s standpoint. We want to make sure as they’re testing, we’re testing as well.”

The amateur rocket, which is about 8-feet-tall, four inches in diameter, and weighs about 26 pounds, is powered by a commercial off-the-shelf model rocket motor.

The testing will be conducted on Saturday, March 30, and potentially Sunday, March 31, as well. The test is not open to the public. No roads or waterways are expected to be closed.

As was reported in The Brunswick News, the spaceport is a controversial topic in Camden County.

In a message to WJCT, the administrator of the Taxpayers Against Camden Spaceport Facebook page said the following:

“Spaceport Camden is funded solely by county tax dollars and has no private or public partners. So many needs in our county are not being addressed as money is wasted on this project. Because of the location of the spaceport, they will never be able to launch a rocket (a real rocket, not the model rocket this weekend) over Cumberland and Little Cumberland. Yet the county keeps pouring money into it. You'll see the amount of out of state/county lawyers, consultants, PR, and lobbyists that are all being paid with our money. Nothing is transparent in the project. The Union Carbide tract is too contaminated for almost any purpose (according to the EPD) yet the county is determined to buy it. If you spend some time on our page, you'll see that most of us in Camden County don't want this project. We need real industry that will bring real jobs.”

According to the Tribune & Georgian, Spaceport Camden has already cost the county more than $6.5 million and that cost could balloon to well over $11 million.

Spaceport Camden: by the numbers
Credit the Tribune & Georgian

Correction: The second photo in this story was taken at Cape Canaveral. The original caption incorrectly stated it was taken at Spaceport Camden.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.