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Town cancels Luminati runway agreement; rocket engine startup signs temporary lease

Luminati is out. Launcher is in.

Temporarily, at least. 

The Riverhead Town Board last week canceled its runway agreement with Luminati Aerospace and reached an agreement with Launcher Inc. to lease a portion of the taxiway on the eastern runway at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

“We hired outside counsel and they determined that Luminati was no longer conducting business here, so they weren’t meeting a requirement of the license agreement with the town,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said.

Luminati founder Daniel Preston told an upstate publication earlier this year that he was moving his operation upstate.

He still owns property at EPCAL.

The license agreement was officially canceled Sept. 30, Ms. Jens-Smith said. The town’s attorneys said no formal resolution or vote was needed because Luminati had voided the agreement by failing to comply with its requirements.

On Oct. 2, Town Board members, in their role as Community Development Agency commissioners, voted to approve a license agreement with Launcher Inc.

Launcher, a startup company based in Brooklyn, designs rocket engines for satellite launch vehicles.

The company said in a March 2018 letter to the town that it had been developing and test-firing a 3D-printed liquid propellant rocket engine at EPCAL on land owned by Luminati.

Founder and CEO Max Haot said in that letter that they seek to develop a research and testing facility at EPCAL.

The company recently sought a short-term license agreement to move its operation to a location on or near the taxiway of the eastern runway.

Since the potential deal to sell 1,643 acres at EPCAL to Calverton Aviation & Technology is not complete, the Town Board voted to charge Launcher a monthly fee of $2,000.

In addition, Ms. Jens-Smith said, the company will need to obtain site plan approval before they can operate there.

“It’s a revocable agreement, so, if we needed them to go tomorrow, they would have to leave,” she said.

“They are an aviation company, and that’s what we’re looking to promote for economic generation out there,” the supervisor said.

Mr. Haot has indicated previously that he’s been in communication with CAT about locating at EPCAL, should the sale go through.

Launcher’s current operation includes 10 10-by-20-foot container units, a diesel generator on wheels, two mobile concrete walls and a portable bathroom facility, according to the town resolution.

Projects Launcher is working on, according to its website, include building the world’s largest 3D-printed liquid rocket engine; building smaller and lower-cost rockets to launch into orbit; and developing “high performance engines for small rockets.”

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