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MAMA: Initial study into proposed vertical rocket launch site near Marquette to conclude in January

The environmental studies will take two or three years. There’s an entire process built in for community outreach, the group behind the plans says.
Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 6:09 PM EST
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POWELL TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - Editor’s Note: This is the second of two stories about a proposed vertical rocket launch site northwest of Marquette. Click here to read and watch the first story.

Upper Michigan’s beauty draws people in, but a lack of high-paying jobs can drive them away.

With a vertical launch site proposed on the Granot Loma Farm property, the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA) sees an opportunity.

“If we can bring a balance of high-paying jobs, where young families, where graduates can actually say, ‘I like what I do. I like aerospace and being in the space industry, where’s my opportunity to live here in Michigan?’ That’s what we’re looking at,” said Gavin Brown, MAMA Executive Director.

Brown says the project will create between 400 and 1200 new jobs for the area. The business model is yet to be determined.

“If you look at the models that work very well, it’s usually a P3, which is a private-public entity, the majority of it being private, where it works with the community, that entity on the private side so that it’s just a system that incorporates the universities, the research and development, the community so that the community gets to build, it’s not just going to the private side,” he said.

When there is a launch, Brown says people in Marquette won’t be able to hear anything. People very close to the site will hear it briefly.

“It would be like we’re talking now with about a three second interruption,” he said. “That’s it. So you’re not hearing the deep rumbling thrust that again we see on TV.”

Brown says those neighbors “won’t have to evacuate at all” when a rocket is launched, and an average year will bring “anywhere from 20 to 36” launches.

Homeowners like Anne Sheret are very skeptical about what could happen near their serene Lake Superior property.

“Yeah, I want to know more, but I expect to be even more upset the more I know,” Sheret said.

Jeanne Baumann wants to see the environmental impact studies.

“(I’m) hoping for good answers that will help us to live our life with the expectations that we had, which was to grow old in this spot,” Baumann said.

Baumann says she and her husband are living in limbo. Because of the rising level of Lake Superior, they want to build a new house farther from the shore. However, that plan is on hold while they wait and see what happens with the proposed launch site.

“But the erosion isn’t necessarily going to be on hold,” said Baumann.

Brown explained when more answers will be revealed.

“These are all good questions that folks have been asking, but there is a process to it and a process to respond,” he said. “And in the feasibility stage of just gaining information, community outreach is not included in that because it’s just studying the capabilities and the resources.”

Brown says the feasibility study continues through the end of January.

“Because it’s a feasibility study, and the feasibility study hasn’t been complete, the dissemination of information has not started,” he said. “So as soon as the feasibility study is done and the licensing process or the process goes forward, there’s an entire process built in for community outreach. We will be proactive in bringing that forward.”

Brown says the environmental studies will take two or three years. The launch site probably wouldn’t be operational until 2025.

MAMA has also announced plans for a horizontal launch site in Oscoda. A site for a commanding control center will be revealed early next month. That could be at Sawyer International Airport, Chippewa County International Airport or four Lower Michigan sites.

Click here to read a list of Frequently Asked Questions with answers from MAMA.

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