SpinLaunch reps face criticism during informational session in Naalehu

HILO — Ka‘u residents during a community meeting Saturday expressed their considerable disapproval of a facility proposed to be built in Ocean View that would launch satellites.

In the face of severe backlash against California spaceflight development company SpinLaunch Inc. and its plans to construct a revolutionary satellite launch facility near Pohue Bay, an information session about the project was hosted Saturday morning in Naalehu.

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Oahu Democratic state Sen. Glenn Wakai, who introduced a bill that would provide support to SpinLaunch in the form of up to $25 million in special purpose revenue bonds, apologized for his failure in obtaining feedback from the residents of Ka‘u before introducing the bill, as well as for a miscommunication on his part that led people to think the company was specifically targeting Ka‘u.

The primary speakers during the meeting, however, were two representatives of SpinLaunch: Ryan Hampton, director of launch site development, and project manager Raphael Feldman.

Feldman explained that the state of Hawaii is only one of six states being considered as locations for the facility. Hawaii is ideal, however, because in addition to being near the ocean — a requirement for the facility — it is located near the equator, which allows the launch facility to take advantage of the planet’s greater rotation speed there.

A video by Big Island Video News shows dozens of residents responding with derision or anger to the representatives’ remarks throughout the meeting. Among their criticisms include its presumption in using Ka‘u land without the approval of its residents, the danger it poses to cultural landmarks and indigenous fauna in the process, without ever communicating with residents and the implications of storing rocket fuel in a Lava Zone 2 area — although SpinLaunch claims to be able to launch satellites without requiring rockets.

However, the two affirmed that construction would not go ahead without community support.

“We are not going to come to a community that doesn’t want us,” Hampton said. Several attendees responded with raised hands to confirm they did not want SpinLaunch in the area.

Hampton invited residents to keep an open mind and witness the benefits of the community where SpinLaunch’s faciliy will eventually be built. However, he concluded, that community will very likely not be in Ka‘u.

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A full video of the meeting can be found at bigislandvideonews.com

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com