Company considers Kodiak for site of second launch pad

Rocket Lab Electron on the pad at LC-1. (Photo courtesy of Rocket Lab)

A company that launches small satellites into orbit is considering Kodiak as the site of its second launch pad.

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Rocket Lab has an existing relationship with the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which has offered support services to the company’s launches in New Zealand.

Rocket Lab’s launch site would be its first on American soil, but it is an American company. CEO Peter Beck explains Rocket Lab is headquartered in California and funded through venture capital firms in Silicon Valley.

But their launch pad is located in New Zealand, and Beck says there’s a simple explanation for that.

“There’s just a lot of stuff in America,” Beck said.

Beck means planes, trains and automobiles. And boats. He says every time a company launches a rocket, they have to close off large chunks of the air and sea.

“You run into a real issue with the kind of launch frequency that we’re trying to achieve by just having U.S. launch sites alone,” Beck said. “We’re licensed down in our launch site in New Zealand to launch every 72 hours and, when you contrast that against America as a country launching 25 times a year, you can see how that has a big effect.”

Beck says he started the company in 2006 to serve a growing demand for high-frequency launches for small satellites. Now they’re expanding to a second launch pad, which they may place at the Alaska Aerospace Corporation’s Kodiak facility, but they’re also considering Cape Canaveral in Florida, Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

“We’ll continue to develop launch sites, but this one’s very strategic for us because it serves a real need for a U.S. government customer and also a U.S. commercial customer who may not want to launch out of New Zealand,” Beck said.

Beck says a couple of the elements they’ll consider in their location choice is existing infrastructure, regulatory environment, and how often they can launch. According to Rocket Lab, they’ll announce their decision next month, and they hope to set the new launch pad up in 2019.