Hawaii could expand space endeavors with satellite launch facility

Photo: University of Hawaii

Even decades ago, Ellison Onizuka was looking beyond the limits of what technology was able to do, to what it could do one day.

“It’s only a beginning. You’ll start to see further interplanetary ventures, possibly using the space station as a stopping or servicing base to go on to Mars,” he told KHON2 in May 1985.

Fast forward 30 years and some say Hawaii is lagging in its potential to be a part of the space industry.

The Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center inside Kona International Airport will be closing at the end of March. Nearly 8,000 students a year visit the center to learn about space, science, and Hawaii’s first astronaut.

While the closing of the center is a big blow, there are efforts to revive and expand the space industry in Hawaii.

Two bills currently under review in the legislature call for $100,000 to study the impact of a small satellite launch facility on Hawaii Island.

HB2263 and SB3107: Appropriates funds for the department of business, economic development, and tourism to conduct an economic assessment study on the development and economic viability of a small satellite launch and processing facility on the island of Hawaii.

The proposed site would be on private land near the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut farms in Hilo.

Rep. Derek Kawakami, D, Kauai, introduced the measure. He says if it’s built, the facility could not only be used by Hawaii researchers and schools, but also businesses.

“Our location next to the equator gives us a significant advantage,” Kawakami said. “We’re trying to diversify our economy while realizing tourism is our fountain. We’re trying to invest in high technology.”

Kawakami thinks the facility would be something Onizuka would be proud of.

“I think it would be part of that legacy he left that we continue to try to explore beyond the world be live in,” he said.

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