Photo: Twitter/@launcherspace

Launcher, the tech startup testing rocket engines at one of the Luminati Aerospace sites in the Calverton Enterprise Park, has been served with a notice of violation by the Town of Riverhead.

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, which is located along the 10,000-foot runway.

His use at the site requires a permit and site plan approval, according to town officials.

Max Haot, founder and CEO of Launcher, is testing rocket engines at EPCAL and wants to expand his testing facilities. Photo: Denise Civiletti

In a presentation at the March 19 “qualified and eligible” hearing on Calverton Aviation and Technology, which is looking to buy a massive tract of town-owned vacant land at the enterprise park, Haot said Launcher has been testing its rocket engines at Luminati’s 400 David Court facility.

Haot showed video of rocket engine tests his team has conducted at the site, where Launcher began assembling its testing facility about a year ago, according to its Twitter account @launcherspace.

Haot said after the hearing he has had numerous conversations with town officials — including the town supervisor and its chief building inspector — and was never told his site is not in compliance with any codes. (See prior story.)

In a statement emailed last night, Haot said he does not agree that his facilities at the Luminati site require permits, but he will submit applications as directed by the town.

“While we disagree that our temporary shipping containers and concrete blocks are subject to building/construction permits, now that the town has notified us formally today, we plan to comply and submit a site plan and commercial building application within 30 days as requested by the notice,” Haot wrote.

Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said in an interview after the March 19 hearing she became aware of Launcher’s presence at the site after taking office in January and acknowledged meeting with Haot. Former supervisor Sean Walter said in a March 22 interview he had known there was a rocket engine company interested in the site but said he was not aware it was actually operating there.

Jens-Smith said the town has been trying to work with him. “It’s a really exciting project,” she said. But the town could not ignore site plan and permit requirements because it’s a public safety issue, she said.

According to Launcher’s accounts on Twitter and Medium, Launcher has placed four containers at the site which house a control room, “a networking/video equipment hub,” liquid oxygen storage and a “test stand container.” The company has also erected “a concrete protection wall.”

Launcher’s Twitter feed shows the “protection wall” at the site as of April 15, 2017 and a month later, a post to the account speaks of connecting the facilities to an electrical supply and internet link.

It conducted its first “hot fire” test of a rocket engine igniter last June and tested its first rocket engine there in December. It completed additional tests in February and again on March 30.

Haot said at the Q&E hearing that his company is a prospective tenant for CAT — he’d like to expand to a permanent facility there.

The town issued the notice of violation yesterday after inspections conducted subsequent to Haot’s presentation at the March 19 hearing.

Manorville Fire District president Thomas Campanaro said in a phone interview yesterday he was present last week during Launcher’s most recent test. Riverhead Town Fire Marshal Andrew Smith was also there, Campanaro said.

Fire protection officials are concerned any time combustible substances are stored or used, Campanaro said. He grew concerned when he read about Launcher’s activities at the site.

“Right now, it’s a very small operation,” he said. He’d be more concerned if it expands and the amount of volatile substances stored and used there increased.

Launcher “seems to have a large amount of safety protections in place,” Campanaro said. In any event, he said, the fire district should be notified of operations like that within its boundaries, because firefighters need to know about special hazards in order to be prepared for what they may encounter when answering an emergency call.

The fire district is notified by the town fire marshal’s office when an application is received and is afforded the opportunity to comment.

“All our interactions with town officials have been very supportive, for example, last week we performed a demonstration engine fire for the town fire marshal and Manorville fire chief and fire commissioner,” Haot said in a statement last night.

“Our only intention is to operate with full local support and within local regulations so that we can continue to test in Riverhead and build our eventual manufacturing facility here,” he said.

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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.