A company wants to fling satellites into space with a catapult — based on the Big Island

A company wants to fling satellites into space with a catapult — based on the Big Island
Updated: Feb. 26, 2018 at 7:45 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - California-based company SpinLaunch says it is developing new technology to launch small satellites into space — without the traditional rocket fuel and boosters —  and executives are looking at the Big Island as a potential launch site.

The company did not respond to HNN's questions about their proposal, but those familiar with the technology say it use electricity to spin an object thousands of miles per hour before launching it into space with a catapult.

Yes, a catapult.

State Sen. Glenn Wakai, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Tourism, and Technology, toured SpinLaunch's facility in Sunnyvale.

"I took the opportunity to go and see their small test module and it was amazing what they were able to do," Wakai said. "They want to take it from the testing laboratory to testing it in real life. That's why they're looking at the Big Island."

Wakai says the catapult technology makes space launches more environmentally-friendly and affordable.

There are currently 10,000 small satellites just waiting to be launched, he said, so the demand is high.

"This is one of those areas where Hawaii really should take advantage of our location and then bring in good quality jobs," he said.

Other lawmakers hope the project could generate millions for the state.

"Potentially each launch can bring anywhere from $10 million to $15 million per launch to the state," said state Sen. Will Espero, who supports the proposal.

Some residents on the Big Island, meanwhile, say they're concerned that the company hasn't told them anything about the project.

"Come talk to us. We live here. This is the area that they're going to do those thing, so come to us," said Elizabeth Kuluwaimaka, resident and Aha Moku representative for the Kau area.

The theory behind the technology is nothing new.

NASA previously looked into the possibility of catapult launches and other companies are developing technologies with things like slingshots.

There are bills moving forward at the state Legislature that would authorize special purpose revenue bonds to help SpinLaunch with the financing of its project. Taxpayer dollars would not be put at risk.

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