Hawaiʻi Aerospace Opportunities

Small Vehicle Launch Operations

Hawaiʻi’s geographic position near the equator makes it one of the best locations in the U.S. for small satellite orbital launches. Two space companies are interested in launching 10 – 15 payloads per year from East Hawaiʻi.

The Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Capability Technology Demonstration Program has allocated $25 – $50 million for a new glider concept that could generate significant revenue and employment opportunities. A successful operation is estimated to be worth $1 billion after three to four years. The revenue generated for Hawaiʻi would include:

  1. A share of the IP value of the operational glider system—estimated at $660 million
  2. Operational costs for the launch sites
  3. More high-tech employers and jobs related to orbital and planetary missions
  4. U.S. Air Force support for small U.S. rockets that can be adapted for glider launches

Unmanned Aerial Systems

Hawaiʻi is among only a few locations in the world where next-generation Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) could launch and land. UAS operate like geostationary satellites and have the potential to bring a variety of important services to Hawaiʻi. These include:

  1. Statewide broadband internet access
  2. Tracking data for storms and volcanic activity
  3. Monitoring sea level rise, coastal erosion, and reefs
  4. Tracking the spread of invasive species
  5. Natural disaster recovery efforts

HAPSMobile, a joint venture of SoftBank Corp. and Aerovironment, Inc., aims to establish a UAS operations and assembly center in Hawaiʻi. The center would support an airborne network of solar-powered aircraft providing wireless services on the ground from the upper stratosphere. Such a facility would aid Hawaiʻi’s economy by creating more than 200 jobs in information technology, engineering, and aviation, as well as vocational programs for prospective workers.

NASAʻs Helios Unmanned Aerial System

Space Tourism

A new spaceflight startup offering balloon rides to the stratosphere has its eye on Hawaiʻi as a potential launch site. Space Perspective will ferry paying customers to the edge of space using a stratospheric balloon tethered to a pressurized spacecraft. The company is seeking locations to set up a flight center, headquarters, and manufacturing hub. Such a facility would employ a workforce of about 200 employees earning average salaries of $60,000 per year.

Space Perspective’s first tours will launch from the continental U.S. in 2024 and tickets have already sold out for the year. In addition to tours, the company’s flights will also carry scientific research experiments and education projects.

spaceship neptune stratospheric balloon

Basalt Fiber Manufacturing

Hawaiʻi’s volcanic basalt has the specific properties needed to make a durable, heat-resistant product known as Continuous Basalt Fiber (CBF). Similar to carbon fiber and fiberglass, CBF is an additive-free material that can be woven into flame-retardant fabrics, corrosion-resistant rebar, and other durable products. As of 2019, global CBF manufacturing was valued at roughly $100 million and projected to double in the coming decade.

In 2017, we contracted a state-funded market feasibility study to determine the viability of a CBF manufacturing operation on Hawaiʻi Island. The report included:

  1. Current global market demand for CBF
  2. Average market price of CBF products
  3. Estimated cost to build and operate a plant on Hawaiʻi Island
  4. Manufacturing plant business model
  5. Estimated cost comparison between CBF manufactured in Hawaiʻi and other locations globally
  6. Potential number of jobs and average wages that would be created

To request a copy of this report, please contact us.

basalt fiber products