Photo: Twitter/@launcherspace

A technology entrepreneur who has trained his sights on aerospace is testing innovative rocket engines at the Luminati Aerospace facility in Calverton.

Max Haot, founder of Launcher, is developing a staged combustion engine that he hopes will someday launch rockets carrying small satellites into space.

Launcher is based at NewLab, an advanced technology incubator at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Haot’s small team of engineers do their design work at NewLab. The engines are 3D printed by industry partners. Launcher uses as a test site a portion of a tie-down area owned by Luminati at its 400 David Court facility.

Haot, who founded the video streaming service Livestream — which was acquired by Vimeo last fall — is excited about the prospects for his new company in the new era of commercial space flight. 

He hopes to be able to launch his first test flight in six or seven years, he said in an interview on TMRO, a weekly show about science and space exploration.

Launcher’s rockets will be launched at a space facility like the Kennedy Space Center — not at EPCAL, Haot told the Riverhead Town Board Monday night during a hearing on the proposal by Calverton Aviation and Technology to purchase more than 1,600 acres of vacant industrial land at EPCAL.

Launcher founder Max Haot at the Calverton Aviation and Technology hearing March 19. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Haot is a prospective tenant for CAT — he’d like to expand to a permanent facility there, he said Monday night. He gave a presentation during CAT’s “qualified and eligible” hearing, outlining his goals and describing to the board what he’s been doing at the enterprise park. His presentation included video of the rocket engine tests he’s been conducting in Calverton, the first one dating back to December.

But neither Launcher or Luminati have site plan approval or a use permit from the town for the set-up on the taxiway, despite the fact that Launcher’s presence there dates back to last April, according to Launcher’s Twitter feed, which has photos showing a “protection wall” of concrete blocks and shipping containers housing a control room, equipment and the rocket engine test rig. See Launcher’s photo essay on Medium.

Town officials say those approvals are necessary, though Haot said today he was unaware of any such requirements.

Haot said he has had numerous conversations with town officials — including the town supervisor and its chief building inspector — and has not been told his site is not in compliance with any codes.

Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said today she became aware of Launcher’s presence at the site after taking office in January. In a phone interview, former supervisor Sean Walter said today he knew there was a rocket engine company interested in the site but was not aware it was actually operating there.

Former community development director Chris Kempner said Haot is “the best thing in years” to come to EPCAL and said she worked to help him find a suitable location there. She was critical of the reception she believes he’s gotten from the new supervisor.

Jens-Smith said the town has been trying to work with him. “It’s a really exciting project,” she said. But that doesn’t mean the town will let site plan and permit requirements slide, Jens-Smith said.

It’s a public safety issue, she said, especially when the use is question involves rocket propellent and liquid oxygen.

In an emailed statement following a phone interview this afternoon, Haot said Launcher is “not aware today of any specific Riverhead town code we are not in compliance with” at the Luminati site.

“We have always had positive and supportive interactions with town representatives when presenting our business activities and plans over the last year,” Haot wrote.”We have never received any notice of violation from the building department, fire department or any other Riverhead Town department.”

Luminati Aerospace is occupying two sites at EPCAL. The building it purchased from Skydive Long Island in 2015, which is adjacent to the 10,000-foot runway. Launcher’s testing facility is located at that site.

Luminati also occupies a portion of the much larger Plant Six building, where Luminati founder Daniel Preston held a grand opening in June 2017. Luminati moved into that building and completed installation of industrial equipment there without obtaining any building permits or a certificate of occupancy. The town building department issued Luminati a stop-work order and the company made a preliminary site plan application filing. Its application was never completed, however, and no permits or C.O. were ever issued, according to town records. No enforcement action has yet been commenced.

“Our only relationship to Luminati is as a short-term sublease licensor for our testing facility on their outdoor land,” Haot said in the email.

Luminati attorney Robert Hasday declined comment on the Launcher operation at Luminati. He instead provided by email comments he said came from Haot, reiterating comments Haot made in an interview yesterday.

 

Correction: This story has been amended to correct a misattribution of a quote to Luminati’s attorney, who declined to respond to a question asking why Luminati had not submitted a site plan application to the town depicting the Launcher operation.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.