Spaceport meeting gets heated

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Opponents of a proposed small satellite launch facility stand outside of a meeting with Department of Hawaiian Home Lands residents Friday at the Panaewa Community Center.

    Opponents of a proposed small satellite launch facility stand outside a meeting with Department of Hawaiian Home Lands residents Friday at the Panaewa Community Center. (Hollyn Johnson/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

  • Craig Campbell, CEO of Alaska Aersopace Corp., talks about a proposed small satellite launch facility Friday during a meeting with Department of Hawaiian Home Lands residents at the Panaewa Community Center.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Craig Campbell, CEO of Alaska Aersopace Corp.

  • Rodrigo Romo, program manager for Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, talks about a proposed small satellite launch facility Friday during a meeting with Department of Hawaiian Home Lands residents at the Panaewa Community Center.
  • Rodrigo Romo, program manager for Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, talks about a proposed small satellite launch facility Friday during a meeting with Department of Hawaiian Home Lands residents at the Panaewa Community Center.
  • Rodrigo Romo, program manager for Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, talks with Terri Napeahi, left, and other opponents of a proposed small satellite launch facility Friday. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

PANAEWA — The CEO of Alaska Aerospace Corp. said the organization will have some homework to do after a contentious meeting with Department of Hawaiian Home Lands residents Friday about its proposed small satellite launch facility.

The meeting at the Panaewa Community Center was held in advance of a public meeting planned for Feb. 6 in Hilo.

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About 50 people from Panaewa and Keaukaha attended, and none appeared interested in rockets being launched in the area. The site being explored is on W.H. Shipman land between the Mauna Loa macadamia nut farm and the ocean, about three miles from the nearest Panaewa homestead lot.

Many of the attendees said enough has already been built on or around homestead communities, whether it be the airport, landfill or drag strip.

“We’re surrounded by pilau,” said Maile Lu‘uwai, who led efforts to relocate a proposed composting facility away from Panaewa.

A common point of view was the proponents need to bring more than promises about jobs or education, but also an understanding of the culture and history.

That’s where some said they felt Craig Campbell, Alaska Aerospace Corp. CEO, was lacking during his talk.

“I don’t hear a word you say because you don’t do your homework,” Sandra Claveria said.

Campbell said he felt he needed to meet with the community to hear the concerns and questions before the public meeting. A time and place is still to be determined.

“The community spoke from the heart,” he said. “I learned a lot about some of the sensitive areas I need to focus on.”

While he and other proponents, including the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems and University of Hawaii’s space flight laboratory, gave an overview of the project, there was no formal presentation or handouts.

Campbell said the rockets would have an average height of 40 feet, and there would be a cap of 24 launches a year.

He said it would only be used for commercial satellite launches, and the site would be smaller than the organization’s existing launch site on Alaska’s Kodiak island. Two launch pads — one 20 feet by 20 feet, the other 20 feet by 60 feet in size — would be built, but there would be little overall infrastructure.

“It’s not going to be Kodiak here,” he said.

The interest in Hawaii Island is it can accommodate equatorial launches.

Campbell told the Tribune-Herald other sites were explored in Saipan and Guam, but the project likely will come to an end if the facility can’t be built in East Hawaii.

Peggy Farias, Shipman CEO, said at the meeting that the company has not decided whether to agree to host the site.

She referred to the proposed site, about 13 acres in size, as being 1.5 miles from Haena beach, also known as Shipman beach. Campbell said not all of the site would be disturbed.

The meeting concluded after a few activists led by Terri Napeahi entered the community center, resulting in shouting and finger pointing with some of the other attendees.

The group of about 10 stood outside for most of the meeting holding signs in protest.

In addition to blasting the proposal, Napeahi criticized community leaders for agreeing to a meeting she claimed was being organized in secret. She said she grew up next to the Hilo airport in Keaukaha, and sees the proposal as another facility that will cause harm to Hawaiians.

“Our leaders do not speak for me,” Napeahi said. “You are being used.”

Such comments prompted objections from other attendees, with one accusing her of lying.

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Rodrigo Romo, PISCES program manager, said Napeahi was emailed about the meeting along with board members for the Keaukaha and Panaewa community organizations. Board members said they then asked other community members to attend.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

  1. diverdave January 26, 2019 2:43 am

    “Whatever it is we’re against it”
    group is at it again.
    What a great tourist draw it would make a couple times a month. The Mac Nut Farm could set up viewing area.


  2. Big ideas January 26, 2019 6:44 am

    Apparently the launch proponents have not paid off the right Hawaiian pressure groups yet.


    1. diverdave January 26, 2019 7:06 am

      That’s what they meant when the folks said that the company needs “to understand more about the culture and the history”.


  3. KonaRich January 26, 2019 8:03 am

    I wouldn’t mind seeing it over here on the kona side, Private industry close to the ocean with a park surrounding the small launch pads, and that same private industry taking good care of said park, way-way better than county run parks & services, may be even showing them how it’s done. No that’s just a pipe dream.


    1. Dan Mosqueda January 31, 2019 4:30 am

      Kona probably wouldn’t work. I know a company offered to do launches with a smaller rocket that makes a lot let noise. The rocket is gone in seconds and in orbit within 8 minutes. This is short sighted on the part of the protesters. They are harming the island more by making it dependent on tourists. The other company also wanted to build the rockets near Hilo. They are made of carbon fiber and there are a lot of folks in the islands who know how to work with the materials. Plus, there was talk of having a ship in the harbor to load up with rockets, sail to the equator and launch from there and then return. Lots of great jobs.


      1. KonaRich February 1, 2019 3:22 pm

        Where can I read the article about this. I would truly like to know.


  4. punabrah January 26, 2019 9:20 am

    Any guess as to the percentage of protesters on the government dole? 💸💸💸


  5. Kaipo Wall January 26, 2019 9:25 am

    Where’s Albertini !? Cant believe he missed this


  6. Bob January 26, 2019 4:14 pm

    You can’t eat culture. No new jobs, complain about kids going to mainland to work. How about teaching the kids how to get welfare? Mayor is useless. Can’t manage buses r water system or bed and breakfasts. Governor the same with taxes, trains and missile attacks. Trying to do civil defense on twitter like a 12 year old kid.


  7. Uncle Kokomo January 27, 2019 8:34 am

    We don’t need no more jobs here! More welfare please!


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