Israeli lunar crash reminds of energy behind push to build Spaceport Camden
By David Pendered
The crash landing of Israel’s spacecraft onto the surface of the moon in April may have fueled the conversation related to the proposed commercial spaceport on Georgia’s coast. With more entities focused on space exploration, the appetite for a commercial launch pad in Georgia may be growing.
If nothing else, the crash reminds of the extent of energy with which NASA and the private sector are responding to President Trump’s space policy. In his 2017 revision of U.S. space policy, Trump called on the U.S. to return a human to the moon by 2024.
Trump refreshed his policy in a March 26 statement:
- “This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps, someday, to many worlds beyond.”
The July edition of National Geographic magazine references the energy level in the nation’s space program. The words, “frenzy of activity in the commercial space industry today,” appear in a story observing the 50th anniversary of the first crewed mission to the moon.
None of this purported frenzy is reflected in the FAA’s letter to Camden County’s Board of Commissioners. The FAA’s letter focuses on the county application to launch low-earth-orbit commercial satellites and to support other suborbital space activities.
The FAA stated in its letter of June 28 to commissioners that the county had delivered all the information the FAA had requested to consider the application. Previously, the FAA had halted consideration of the application and said the county needed to provide additional information – including environmental impact studies of the type sought in a federal lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center.
The FAA’s letter states the agency can proceed with the application review, according to the letter:
- “We received the additional information on June 19, 2019.
- “We have completed our initial review of the additional information, and found that your application is now complete enough for us to accept and to start the 180-day review period as of June 19, 2019. We are reviewing your application and anticipate making a license determination, in accordance with 14 CFR § 413.15, on or before December 16, 2019.”
The FAA’s decision does occur amid the backdrop of renewed energy around a lunar landing – including the Israeli mission – and a host of research by the private sector into commercial activities in space that would need land-based support facilities.
The Israeli effort was a commercial project launched with U.S. support. The craft was launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Feb. 22 and carried a NASA payload that consisted of a device with reflectors that future spacecraft could have used to guide themselves, according to a May 8 report in israelhamon.com. The Israeli government paid $10 million of the $95 million cost.
The effort is largely deemed a success, despite the April 11 crash.
The vessel was just the seventh to have achieved lunar orbit and would have made Israel just the fourth nation to land a vessel on the moon, according to the report in israelhamon.com. Had it landed successfully, Israel would have become the fourth nation to have landed a craft on the moon.
The partnership with Israel continues one that dates to 1996. Terms of the partnership were expanded by a treaty signed in 2015 in Jerusalem, according to a report by timesofisrael.com.
Trump re-purposed the nation’s space policy in a memo released Dec. 11, 2017. Trump replaced an Obama-era policy to send a human to a near-Earth asteroid with a goal of sending a human to the moon and, potentially, to Mars.