OSCODA – Oscoda Township Superintendent Dave Schaeffer, along with Economic Improvement Director Todd Dickerson, will participate in a spaceport facilities site visit through the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA).

The event will take place at locations in and around Cape Canaveral, Fla., from Feb. 4-7.

Authorization for Schaeffer and Dickerson to attend was granted in a 6-0 vote of the Oscoda Township Board of Trustees, during their Monday meeting, with Trustee William Palmer absent.

The motion included approval of travel expenses, not to exceed $4,800, associated with airfare, hotel, car rental and per diem for Schaeffer and Dickerson to take part the delegation. The expense is to be paid for out of the property operations and maintenance fund contingency.

Schaeffer reminded officials that Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport (OWA) representatives for the event are OWA Manager Gary Kellan and OWA Authority (OWAA) member Dave Dailey.

“The Oscoda Private Sector will also be represented in this MAMA delegation,” Schaeffer stated in his meeting report.

When Treasurer Jaimie McGuire asked what was meant by “Oscoda Private Sector,” Schaeffer said there are local companies which are obviously interested in spaceport operations.

“Companies associated with maintenance and overhaul here in Oscoda are very interested in the horizontal launch associated with the spaceport licensure,” he elaborated.

Schaeffer also explained that the new time line for MAMA’s site selection announcement – for both vertical and horizontal launches – will be Monday, Jan. 27.

As noted previously, it was after the Michigan Launch Initiative (MLI) site visit in Oscoda this past year, when it was divulged that the preferred spaceport location in Michigan would be announced on Jan. 2.

Since then, Kellan advised at the Jan. 9 OWAA meeting that this has been bumped back.

He said that, during his last discussion with MAMA Executive Director Gavin Brown, Brown indicated that the goal is to bring the governor’s office up to speed on the project before any formal announcement of the selected sites. Therefore, getting on the governor’s schedule has been a driving factor in this, and an announcement is now targeted for later in the month.

As for the township’s involvement, Schaeffer said the tentative plan is to travel to Cape Canaveral on Feb. 4, and travel back the evening of Feb. 7, or later, depending on the availability of flights.

As reported, an excerpt from MAMA’s Nov. 4, 2019 newsletter extended an invite for its members to participate in a group site visit of spaceport facilities located in the Cape Canaveral area.

Kellan – during the November OWAA meeting – said he asked Brown how things were going with the review process for OWA and, while Brown reported that Oscoda was receiving favorable comments, he also said he was not yet ready to share any of this.

Kellan said he told Brown that he feels OWA is in a strong position as it relates to the horizontal launch, but he isn’t sure how the site is being evaluated in terms of vertical launch possibilities.

As for what Oscoda is bringing to the table, Kellan has explained that OWA is only 2.7 miles to the beach on Lake Huron. However, there can’t be a hook shot type scenario, as anything launched would have to go directly north. Further, launches can’t be carried out over populated airspace. A vertical launch directly north from OWA would put this over Alcona County, Presque Isle County and so on.

Additionally, zoning protections would have to be put in place  in these areas, as it relates to future high density development.

When it comes to the horizontal launches, though, OWA has the longest runway – which also recently underwent a major rehabilitation – of the other contenders.

Vertical launches are similar to that of a shuttle taking off. But a horizontal launch can involve, for example, retrofitting the belly or underwing of a 747, which would travel into the air and then launch the rocket from that point.

In the newsletter, Brown states that MAMA is presently engaged in Phase I work on the MLI, which involves the feasibility of sites for both vertical and horizontal launch capabilities.

“We are putting site information into an analysis that is scored on many aspects, such as safety, community support, environmental factors, vector launch coordinates and others including business development to the local and state economy,” Brown wrote.

He shared that MAMA was planning to announce the sites which meet and exceed the highest value, in mid to late January. “The site or sites will serve as our basis to move forward with FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] licensing for a Spaceport for both/individually, vertical and horizontal launches serving LEO/MEO/suborbital, polar orbit demand.”

At the time the newsletter was published, Brown stated that MAMA had recently been with various Michigan interests, meeting with Florida based commercial and governmental organizations – including NASA, United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Boeing – and visiting the sites of emerging space delivery companies.

For the event in February, he explained that the association will be leading a delegation of MAMA members to Kennedy Space Center, Patrick Air Force Base and the Cape Canaveral area. The primary activity is a VIP viewing of the Feb. 5 launch of an Atlas V rocket (Solar Orbiter mission) by ULA. “In addition, visits to local commercial space companies, NASA and the DOD are being scheduled.”

As reported, upon choosing the Michigan spaceport site – be it in Oscoda or elsewhere – the candidate will then have to compete nationally for licensing through the FAA Space System program.