Alaska Aerospace Corporation launches into new period on island

Kodiak’s rocket launch facility has entered a new period on the island and will soon be active again.

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Craig Campbell speaks to public at rededication event. (Photo by Kayla Desroches, KMXT - Kodiak)
Craig Campbell speaks to public at rededication event. (Photo by Kayla Desroches, KMXT – Kodiak)

This comes about two years after a launch failure damaged buildings on the complex, and Alaska Aerospace Corporation representatives say insurance is covering the funds needed for repairs.  Saturday, AAC invited the community to a Launch Complex Rededication Ceremony.

AAC representatives and community leaders cut a red ribbon set up in front of the podium. The rededication ceremony is in the integrated processing facility, where rocket motors are checked and tested.

AAC President and Chief Executive Officer Craig Campbell said the integrated processing facility and the launch service structure are almost entirely new.

He said he’s proud of the construction, and the facility is already attracting interest.

“In the year that we were rebuilding, we also had three customers that have now indicated clear intentions of launching from Alaska,” Campbell said. “That’s the best we’ve ever had. We’ve never had three diversified customers at one time that want to launch in this facility, and most are private sector.”

One of those customers is an entrepreneurial company called Vector Space Systems, which Campbell said will work to launch small satellites from the facility either late this year or early next year.

Kodiak is a prime spot for satellite launches according to Bob McCoy, the AAC board chairman. He said the location is one of two options in the United States for launching satellites into polar orbit. The other is at the Vandenberg Air Force Base.

“But this facility is smaller and less complex and much more agile,” McCoy said. “It’s easier to get in here and launch, there’s a smaller team, there’s less bureaucracy and less red tape, and it’s much lower cost to launch a small satellite from this facility.”

Many attendees at the event express positivity about the facility, like Sarah Rains.

“I think it looks really nice. It’s nice and new,” Rains said. “We just walked outside and it’s pretty impressive to see what’s been rebuilt and it sounds like there’s an exciting agenda going forward, so it’s fun to hear about.”

Other people have an eye on the natural resources around the facility, and are concerned about access to those.

Richard McIntosh said in 2005 a number of community members signed a petition supporting continued public access to Fossil Beach and the Narrow Cape area.

“AADC has done a good job to date of allowing public access and just putting small perimeter fences around their facilities, and the people of Kodiak are hoping that they continue to do that as activities expand out here,” McIntosh said. “If that happens, we want more small perimeter fences rather than any sort of wholesale closing of lands out here.”

Campbell said AAC will ensure that access to Fossil Beach remains open.

“When we laid out the layout for missile defense agency, we actually positioned the structure, the pads we were going to put in, so that they would not impact fossil beach,” Campbell said. “Now, we will have to close Fossil Beach and the road for an actual launch, because we have to have two miles around the launch area kind of closed out in case something happens like happened two years ago. But it’s very temporary, it’s not that often, and we’ll give plenty of advanced notice.”

Campbell also said the facility will make various contributions the community, like providing local jobs and giving tours to young students, therefore encouraging an interest in science.