15 April 2010

We Told You So, Part Deux: Kodiak Launch Complex Loses Missile Defense

Note that nowhere in the story below does it mention AAC attempting to find commercial launch customers. When AAC first came to town, they rarely mentioned military launches - they were going to launch telecommunications satellites for private firms - we're still waiting for the first non-military customer. And they want to build even more infrastructure - they are not using the launch pads they have, but they want to build another one!  Now, that's wise use of government funding!
Launch complex loses missile defense
Article published on Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
Mirror Writer
The Alaska Aerospace Corporation is looking for new customers to launch rockets from its Kodiak Launch Complex as it prepares to lose business from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, its most valuable customer.
Since 2004, the MDA has been the only customer to launch missiles from the Narrow Cape facility. In total, it has launched eight rockets from Kodiak, the majority of the facility’s 14 launches.
The MDA’s contract with Alaska Aerospace ends Aug. 31.
In the past, rockets launched in Kodiak have played the role of test target missiles to intercept rockets launched from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. New plans call for sending the test missiles from Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands said MDA spokesman Richard Lehner.
“To make it more challenging we’re launching the test missiles from Kwajalein,” he said. “To make it more operationally realistic.”
To pay some of its costs while it searches for new customers, Alaska Aerospace Corporation requested $4 million from the State of Alaska’s capital budget to help pay costs in its 2011 budget. The $4 million sum is approximately the same as the company’s net loss before capital contributions in the 2009 fiscal year.
The funding request is now winding its way through the state Legislature, which concludes its session Sunday.
“We need to be prepared,” said Alaska Aerospace Corp. CEO Dale Nash. “We don’t yet know what will happen with the MDA launches. We have asked for the state Legislature to tide us over.”
Alaska Aerospace Corp. also hopes to cover its costs with two non-MDA launches this fall. Both are for the U.S. Force, which has used the Kodiak Launch Complex before.
In mid-September the Kodiak Launch Complex is expected to launch STP-S26, a rocket that holds several scientific experiments Nash said.
Its payload includes a space phenomenology experiment and an ocean data telemetry satellite according to the Alaska Aerospace Corp’s annual report. The rocket also contains FalconSat-5, a satellite designed by engineering students at the Air Force Academy.
Between 60 and 90 days later the complex is supposed to launch the TACat4, a satellite that will provide Ultra High Frequency communication channels.
The launches were previously scheduled for 2009, but have been delayed.
Back in January, Alaska Lt. Gov. Campbell wrote in a guest opinion in the Kodiak Daily Mirror that the Kodiak Launch Complex needs to move beyond its MDA work.
In early January, he traveled with Nash to Colorado to lobby the Air Force to use the Kodiak Launch complex for its future launches. He expressed optimism about a meeting with Gen. Robert Kehler, Air Force Space Commander
”While it is too early to declare victory, our meetings netted some very positive direction,” Campbell said.
This summer, work is expected to finish on the Kodiak Launch Complex’s new rocket motor storage facility. Another proposed project would add a third launch pad to the complex, allowing two customers to use the launch complex simultaneously.
Nash said engineering work has been done for the third launch pad, but there are no further plans unless federal stimulus money becomes available or the complex sees an upswing in commercial spaceport demand.
Mirror writer Sam Friedman can be reached via e-mail at sfriedman@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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