DENVER, March 2, 2012 (LM PR) – Lockheed Martin Corporation announced today that it has chosen Alaska’s Kodiak Launch Complex (KLC) as its dedicated West Coast launch facility for Athena rocket launches. The company’s decision will enable Alaska Aerospace Corporation to move ahead with plans to expand its space launch capabilities. Lockheed Martin has been working with the state of Alaska and Alaska Aerospace Corporation on expansion plans for the new medium–lift launch pad to support potential Athena III launches.
“Our nation needs affordable lift to meet current and projected demands at a time of declining budgets and economic pressures,” said John Karas, vice president and general manager, Human Space Flight, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. “The leadership demonstrated by Governor Sean Parnell by investing in space launch infrastructure is a model for our nation and provides tremendous incentive to partner with the state and expand the aerospace industry in Alaska.”
Last year, Lockheed Martin announced its intent to offer Athena II services with a ride-share launch from Kodiak in late 2013. The company is positioned to expand the Athena II program as it continues to evaluate the business case for Athena III launches from Alaska. The Athena III would be capable of launching satellites weighing 4,600 kg (10,150 lbs) from the West Coast and 5,900 kg (13, 000 lbs) from the East Coast.
Working with the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, Lockheed Martin will finalize its plans for Athena III over the next few months. The new medium-lift capability from Kodiak will enable the company to engage Alaska businesses as future suppliers benefiting the state and the Athena launch program, as well as the opportunity to engage future generations of engineers and scientists through Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) outreach.
“We are very pleased at the opportunity to expand our relationship with Lockheed Martin as we pursue medium-lift launches out of Kodiak,” said Dale Nash, chief executive officer, Alaska Aerospace Corporation. “Lockheed Martin has been involved with Alaska Aerospace for more than a decade, beginning with the NASA Kodiak Star Athena I launch in 2001. As we move forward together, we anticipate regular launches of Athena rockets from KLC. This will benefit both the nation and Alaska as work content and the associated jobs develop within the state.”
Editor’s Note: Here’s some additional information about Kodiak and the Athena III project, courtesy of the Junneau Empire:
Craig Campbell, president and chief operating officer of Alaska Aerospace Corp. testified to the Senate in February the Kodiak Launch Complex would pursue two types of novel launch customers to try to make the spaceport profitable after the company’s only paying customer, the U.S. military, recently moved its missile defense testing program to meet new demands. The first new avenue would focus on customers buying space for multiple small satellites under the cowling of the type of small rockets Kodiak can currently handle, like the Athena II rocket. The second, and more ambitious proposal was to court the West Coast medium-lift market, then upgrade the launch complex when it procured a customer.
Alaska Aerospace Corporation, Kodiak Launch owners, and Lockheed Martin are working together to scale up the Kodiak complex.
To that end, [Alaska Gov. Sean] Parnell has added $25 million to his FY13 budget for the spaceport and Lockheed Martin is pursuing $100 million in its own financing.
“Construction of this additional launch pad will not only bring business to Alaska, but it will also create high-paying jobs in the future,” Parnell said.
Lockheed Martin must also pull its Athena III program out of mothballs and find customers to buy its valuable missions.
Athena III is clearly a big deal for Alaska. and it would certainly bolster America’s capability for launching medium-sized payloads. The new rocket could make Kodiak very competitive with other spaceports across the country. It will be interesting to see what impact that has on the market.