Cecil Spaceport — Jacksonville's own planned facility at Cecil Airport where objects will be launched into space via special airplanes — is one step closer to completion, with a key federal approval to start to move forward with construction.
On Tuesday, the environmental assessment of the area was completed with no further comments or questions from the Federal Aviation Administration.
“There were portions of the ramp we could complete prior to the environmental assessment,” said Kelly Dollarhide, airport manager for Cecil. “But now there are major portions that can be completed. As we get any final comments from the FAA, the process should go quickly. We hope to have it completed by end of November.”
Meanwhile, Cecil might be getting some company with a new spaceport planned for nearby, but that won't mean it's getting any new competition.
Camden County, Georgia, is planning its own space center just an hour's drive from Cecil but with one big difference from Jacksonville's facility: Camden County is planning a vertical launching port, while Jacksonville's launches horizontally.
The result would be a center that is a completely different animal from what Northeast Florida has, that will “compete in a totally different market,” Dollarhide said. She said Camden would be competing with Kennedy Space Center, but that it would have some major hurdles to go through to get public approval. Camden County did not return calls by the time of publication.
She said that there will also be a marketing plan for Cecil airport and spaceport, which will be used to attract other operators.
Cecil has already partnered with at least one operator, Atlanta-based Generation Orbit. Generation Orbit will use Cecil to test and launch its rocket system into low earth orbit.
Dollarhide said the company would continue testing at Cecil in the next few months, and is planning for a launch date in January 2017.