Big Island residents say no to the idea of a rocket launching facility

An animation from the company shows the idea of what they're hoping to accomplish.
An animation from the company shows the idea of what they're hoping to accomplish.(Alaska Aerospace (custom credit))
Updated: Feb. 6, 2019 at 6:49 PM HST
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HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Dozens of residents crowded into a public meeting on Wednesday to learn about a proposal to build a satellite launch facility on the east side of the Big Island.

Alaska Aerospace Corporation wants to build Pacific Spaceport Complex-Hawaii in Keaau.

“Hawaii is in a tremendous location to access equatorial orbit. The location in reference to the equator is really good,” explained Craig Campbell, the company’s chief executive officer. “I’m familiar with the number of spaceport proposals that have gone across here. I think ours is completely different. Different size, different magnitude.”

Critics have many concerns, including noise as well as possible air and water pollution.

“We want to tell them no rockets. This is just uncalled for. I lived my whole entire life with my families in our Hawaiian Homes community with toxic facilities that have very little checks and balances,” said Terri Napeahi, an organizer with Keaukaha Action Network.

The company wants to create a commercial launch site for small satellites on a roughly 13-acre site. The property, which is owned by W.H. Shipman, is about 3 miles from the closest Panaewa farm lots and about 1.5 miles from Haena Beach.

Shipman CEO Peggy Farias is waiting for the completion of the Environmental Assessment before making a decision.

“I do not anticipate serious environmental impacts because these rocket motors, we’re flying them in Alaska. We had an environmental assessment done about three years ago using the same fuels,” said Campbell.

Alaska Aerospace hopes to build two launch pads for rockets ranging from 40 to 60 feet. The company is planning 24 launches a year.

“I would be opposed to a rocket launch pad anywhere in Hawaii because the public will never be able to know what is being launched, what substances are being transported to the facility,” said Koohan Paik-Mander, found of Malama Hamakua.

The company says besides economic benefits for Hawaii, there will be educational opportunities for students.

Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim is waiting to find out more about the project before taking a position.

“We cannot just focus on just the economic benefits, but obviously that it is important, that’s our job. But what also has to be emphasized is the impact on our lifestyle,” said Kim.

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