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New space race provides opportunities for Long Island, panelists say

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), left, chats with

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), left, chats with Max Haot, chief executive at Brooklyn-based Launcher, before an aerospace conference held Friday at SUNY Farmingdale. Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Long Island, which produced the lunar module that landed men on the moon in 1969, is still in the space race, panelists said Friday.

A conference of aerospace executives organized by Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) highlighted the fast-evolving business of launching satellites and the region's potential to take a piece of that business.

"There's a whole revolution going on in the satellite world," said Dan Hart, a Valley Stream native who is president and chief executive of Virgin Orbit, based in Long Beach, California.

Virgin Orbit, part of the Virgin Group, plans to offer launch services for a new generation of small satellites. Virgin's method would use a 747 jumbo jet to hoist a rocket aloft and then ignite the rocket to boost the satellite into orbit.

"Satellites that once were the size of a school bus can now be the size of a microwave," Hart said.

"Space is becoming congested, contested and very competitive," said another speaker, Ricardo Gonzalez, director of space systems at UK-based BAE Systems, which has about 650 employees in Greenlawn.

Panelists said that about 5,000 satellites have been launched since the dawn of the space age, but that the entry of commercial launch services and smaller satellites will vastly increase the number of objects in orbit.

"It's clear that space is no longer a sanctuary," Gonzalez said.

Suozzi said that Long Island, with its aerospace legacy, could have a place in the coming space race. 

"There's no reason we couldn't build a rocket on Long Island," Suozzi said at the event at Farmingdale State University.

Panelist Max Haot, chief executive at Brooklyn-based Launcher, is testing rocket engines in open-ended containers in Calverton.

Haot said he typically spends about three days a week in Brooklyn working on designs and two days in Calverton doing live tests.

"You can't design if you can't test," he said.

Haot, who sold his Brooklyn-based Livestream video service to Manhattan-based IAC in 2017, eventually plans to scale Launcher up to 120 employees and begin offering commercial satellite-launching services in 2026.

Suozzi, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said his congressional district secures about $1.7 billion per year in federal defense contracts and an estimated $2 billion in subcontracts to supply parts, assemblies and services to "prime" contractors like Northrop Grumman Corp.

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