WASHINGTON, DC (Alaska Delegation PR) – Today the Alaska Congressional Delegation praised the announcement by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) that it has awarded a sole source contract to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) to support two flight tests of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense Systems (THAAD) at the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska on Kodiak, Alaska.
The contract, which could total up to $80.4 million, will support MDA’s flight test requirements for the 3rd Quarter of Fiscal Year 2017 and will include the site preparation for two THAAD launchers, range communication and instrumentation capabilities, and a Life Support Area. This new development positions the Kodiak launch facility for a bright future in missile defense testing.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AAC PR) — The Kodiak Launch Complex is no longer, in name at least. Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC), a premier aerospace company that owns and operates the non-Federal Kodiak Launch Complex, announces that it is renaming the facility “Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska” (PSCA) to reflect the growing capability of AAC to meet customer requirements and its broader aerospace commitment to the Pacific region.
KODIAK, Alaska (AAC PR) – In preparation to rebuild the Kodiak Launch Center’s Launch Pad -1 (LP-1) facilities after a recent anomaly, local Alaskan construction crews have cleared all of the debris from the area. The damaged facilities are being readied for repair work that is planned for the spring and summer. The work is on schedule, allowing the facilities to be back in operation no later than December of 2015.
Army investigators have found the cause of a rocket failure last August that destroyed an experimental hypersonic test vehicle and caused significant damage to Alaska’s Kodiak Launch Complex.
“A review of prior launches has found this to be a one-of-a-kind incident that was unexpected,” spokesman John Cummings wrote in response to questions about what went wrong. He said “details of the investigation and findings are not releasable to the public,” though he declined to say why the report is being withheld and whether anyone was found to be at fault for the failure of the protective cover.
“The launch vehicle flight was terminated near the launch pad shortly after liftoff. The correct flight safety protocol and procedures were followed by all mission personnel. Before this launch configuration was used again, corrective action would have to be identified and implemented,” he said.
“The thermal protective cover is designed to regulate motor temperature prior to launch and remains in place until liftoff. Details of the failure review board findings are not releasable to the public,” he said.
The state estimated damages to the complex at $26 million to $29 million. State officials said they expect most of the cost to be covered by insurance.
SpaceX Founder Elon Musk has long talked about disrupting the launch industry with low prices and technological innovations. In 2014, the impacts of those efforts were felt far and wide as competitors responded to the threat the California company posed to their livelihoods.
ULA Pivots. With SpaceX reeling off one successful launch after another, ULA pivoted on several fronts. One was to announce efforts to significantly reduce costs on its highly reliable but pricey Atlas V and Delta IV boosters. But, even that proved to be insufficient as SpaceX threatened ULA on several fronts.
Anchorage, Alaska (AAC PR) – The Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) will receive half of the $6 million in the Federal Fiscal Year 2015 Appropriations Omnibus Bill (HR83) for state owned spaceports. AAC has been working with the Alaska congressional delegation for the past two years to establish a program to support non-Federal spaceports that provide launch services in support of the national security space program, similar to the funding program used to support launches from Federal launch complexes.
“I am very proud of the hard work put in by our congressional delegation: Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Mark Begich, and Congressman Young,” Craig Campbell, President and CEO of AAC, said. “Senator Murkowski and her colleagues reached across the aisle to provide a solution that benefits the entire space-launch community.”
Facing a $3.5 billion budget shortfall due to the falling cost of oil, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has ordered work stopped on a handful of major construction projects.
On Friday, Walker issued an administrative order that directs “state agencies to halt to the maximum extent possible discretionary expenditures” for the Ambler Road Project, Juneau Access Project, Susitna-Watana Dam Project, Kodiak Launch Complex, Knik Arm Crossing and Alaska Stand-Alone Pipeline Project.
Kodiak Launch Complex: The state-owned spaceport in Kodiak was damaged by a rocket explosion in August. Alaska Aerospace, the state-owned corporation that operates the spaceport, announced earlier this month that it plans to rebuild its main launch pad to support larger rockets, at a cost of $6 million to $9 million.
The upgrades to the launch paid would accommodate Lockheed Martin’s medium-lift Athena IIS rocket.
Update: Jeff Foust reports that officials are continuing repairs at the spaceport that resulted from an earlier launch failure. Those repairs are covered by insurance. They are also consulting with the governor’s office on whether the Lockheed Martin agreement is covered by the spending freeze. Compared with many of the other projects affected, this is a relatively low expenditure.
Lockheed Martin beat out three other bidders to reconfigure launch pad one at the Kodiak site, officials with the Alaska Aerospace Corp. said during a news conference in Anchorage.
“It’s is a great day,” said Craig Campbell, the corporation’s CEO and president. “It’s what we’ve been trying to achieve for a number of years. And we’re at the point now, we’re at the cusp of being able to really expand our operation and do the stuff that Alaskans have always wanted.”
The Kodiak facility is capable of launching small rockets, but the more lucrative market is with medium-sized rockets, which have larger payloads and go into higher orbits.
Lockheed Martin’s proposal calls for modifications to the launch pad so its Athena IIS rocket and other medium-lift rockets can be launched from the site. The goal is to have three launches by 2020.
The Athena IIS is an all-solid fuel launch vehicle capable of launching up to 3,000 kg into sun-synchronous orbit. It is an upgraded version of the Athena rocket that was launched seven times with five successes before being mothballed.
Lockheed Martin is working with ATK to bring back the Athena booster for small and medium payloads.
A brief roundup of spaceport news in Texas, New Mexico and Alaska:
Brownsville, Texas — SpaceX has increased its land holdings in the Boca Chica Beach area from 12 undeveloped lots to 72 lots, the Valley Morning Star reports. The company is considering building a private launch complex on the Texas Gulf Coast from which to launch its commercial missions. SpaceX and local officials is awaiting the completion of an environmental review by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Las Cruces, New Mexico — A deal to provide local schools with funding in return for residents supporting a tax increase to fund Spaceport America could unravel. A state legislator has asked that funds raised for this purpose be considered as part of a larger program that redistributes tax revenues to support schools statewide. Millions of dollars in tax revenues that currently fund Sierra and Doña Ana county public schools are at risk.
Kodiak, Alaska — The flight-challenged Kodiak Launch Complex has only one rocket launch scheduled for 2014, but it is pursuing three additional ones for future years. “Things are coming in,” said Alaska Aerospace Corp. COO Mark Greby. “We’ve got people coming in the door now. We’ll get some of them.” The state is eager to see more launches from the spaceport in order to reduce subsidies. Officials are also looking at using Kodiak to support drone flights and monitor launches from other spaceports, including the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia.
RICHMOND, VA (Office of Bob McDonnell PR) — Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Alaska Governor Sean Parnell jointly announced today the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a formal operating relationship between the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority (VCSFA) and the Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC).
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.”