Vector Space System successfully launches 1st rocket from Georgia

Vector Space Systems' launch window 8-10 a.m. Thursday


WOODBINE, Ga. – More than four hours after the window opened for the first ever rocket launch from a remote site in northeastern Georgia, a small venture class test rocket lifted off.

Vector Space Systems, a small satellite launch company based out of Tucson, tested a rocket that the company hopes will put small satellites into space one day.

The window for sub-orbital test flight to lift off from near Waverly, Georgia, was originally from 8 and 10 a.m. About 8:15 a.m., Vector tweeted the launch should happen in about 30 minutes. Another tweet at 8:45 said, "Final payload checkouts ... stay tuned."

A 15-minute countdown began about 11:30 p.m., within 1 minute of launch, Vector tweeted, "Launch hold. Auto abort ignition detection failure standby we are in launch hold."

The countdown resumed just after noon, and the rocket launched successfully at 12:15 p.m.

"Building on years of research, Vector is continuing to work towards the next technical milestone in our development plan," Vector's co-founder and chief technology officer, John Garvey, said in a release. "Spaceport Camden's support of Vector's flight test will not only validate the engineering and technology behind our mission, but also propel Vector closer to an orbital capacity."

People interested in watching the launch were asked to go to the south end of Jekyll Island and look south, or to Crooked Creek State Park and look north.

The Vector rocket will go no higher than 10,000 feet, so people watching should keep their eyes low on the horizon.

Camden County is working on licensing its spaceport with the Federal Aviation Administration. It hopes to have an environmental impact statement drafted by the end of this year.

"The small satellite market is already a $2.2 billion sector of the space economy and expected to grow to $5.3 billion over the next five years," Spaceport Camden project lead Steve Howard said in a news release. 

Earlier this year, Georgia’s legislature passed the Georgia Space Flight Act, which supports development of a commercial spaceport in the state by providing liability protection for spaceport operators, similar to laws in several other states.

Backers of Spaceport Camden argued that the bill was essential to its development.

Some Camden County residents said they think it'll be good for the area, but others think it's going to be an issue for taxpayers.

"They've raised our taxes twice in the last two years. They are having to borrow the money just to buy the $5 million down-payment on the property," Steve Weinkle said.

A county spokesman said the best thing the county can do is create new opportunities for business and revenue, and that the county is only investing in the cost it takes to get the spaceport licensed. Private companies will be covering their own cost for things like building infrastructure and launch pads.

Winkle, however, thinks the county is biting off more than it can chew.

"Camden County should be spending this money on economic development that is realistic," Weinkle said.

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