Commercial rocket launches coming to Kodiak Island

Monday, October 23, 2017 - 13:00
The Israel Missile Defense Organization conducts a test of the Arrow-3 interceptor in 2015 at an Israeli testing range. Another test launch of the Arrow-3 could occur from Kodiak.

By JOANN SNODERLY joann@kodiakdailymirror.com

The state-owned aerospace company that operates the launch facility at Narrow Cape has secured its first commercial contracts to launch from Kodiak Island, with a launch expected to occur early next year.

Alaska Aerospace Corporation CEO Craig Campbell on Thursday updated the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly on operations. The company in May provided mobile launch services in New Zealand for Rocket Lab, a U.S.-based aerospace company, and in July the U.S. Missile Defense Agency conducted two tests of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system at the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska on Kodiak Island.

“It’s even getting better,” Campbell said to assembly members.

According to Campbell, AAC has three contracts and a fourth in the works for commercial launches out of the PSCA.

Ad Astra, a Texas-based aerospace company specializing in advanced plasma rocket propulsion technology, is contracted to launch from PSCA in late January or early February, he said. He said Kodiak may see “robust activity” from the company moving forward.

AAC will also provide support for another Rocket Lab launch in New Zealand in December or January, and Campbell said he hopes the company will be ready to launch from Alaska in 2019.

Finally, Vector Space Systems is expected to launch from PSCA in late 2018, according to Campbell.

The commercial launches will supplement a contract AAC currently holds with the MDA for defense testing. The July THAAD launches were the first activity to come of the contract, and another MDA launch is scheduled for 2018.

Campbell did not go into detail on the 2018 MDA launch, calling it “classified.”

However, Navy Vice Adm. James Syring, former director of the MDA, in June told a congressional committee that the agency would be testing the Arrow-3 defense system.

The Arrow-3 is an exoatmospheric anti-ballistic missile defense system developed by the Israeli Missile Defense Organization and Boeing, and it is co-managed by the MDA and IMDO for Israeli missile defense.

According to Campbell, task orders for the 2018 MDA test are already under contract and task orders for a 2019 test are being negotiated. Additional MDA tests are expected in 2020 and 2021, he said.

Campbell assured assembly members that access to Fossil Beach will be preserved when launches and launch preparation are not occurring, despite the possibility that commercial contractors may be given an opportunity to develop their own small launch sites on the 3,700 acres of state land leased to AAC.

“We have the right to develop that, but we have to keep Fossil Beach open,” he said.