Air Force, NASA Scientists Readying Kodiak Rocket Launch



The Kodiak Launch Complex on Narrow Cape at dawn.

Alaska Aerospace Corporation courtesy photo

Jacob Resneck/KMXT

Next week’s rocket launch at the Kodiak Launch Complex on Narrow Cape will be packed with seven payloads for more than a dozen different experiments. NASA scientists and military project managers held a briefing Tuesday morning in advance of the November 19th liftoff. KMXT’s Jacob Resneck tried to make sense of it all.

— (rocket pkg) 5:23 <chatter> … I’m Jacob Resneck."

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Briefings from scientists across the country underscored the amount of time, effort and money that has gone into preparing for next week’s launch at the Kodiak Launch Complex. How much money specifically? Officials acted stumped by the question though they gave their assurance that they’re being careful with taxpayer’s dollars.

Here’s mission commander Colonel Michael Moran of Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

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The roles of the experiments are varied. Packed into the 75-foot Minotaur IV rocket are seven independent payloads.

The Minotaur IV rocket is the product of a ploughshare program that’s renovated ICBMs into launch vehicles for satellites.

Colonel Carol Welsch is the manager of the space vehicle program. She describes the relative compactness of each independent satellite.


It will be the first launch on Kodiak Island since 2008. According to Colonel Moran, launching from Kodiak has some advantages despite its relative isolation in the Gulf of Alaska.


The smallest of the experiments is the Nanosail-D. It’s a solar sail that would harness streaming solar particles from the sun much in the same way a ship’s sail harnesses the wind. NASA aerospace engineer Dean Alhorn in Huntsville, Alabama explains.


The Nanosail-D is one of the six experiments contained within the FASTSAT. That’s a long acronym but it’s a system for packing in multiple satellites into a single payload, explains NASA’s project manager Mark Boudreaux.


Eleven of the 16 experiments are specifically military developed and directed by the U.S. Air Force. Many are sensors designed to improve understanding of conditions in space that affect communication between ground stations and satellites.

But one non-military experiment of note is designed to study life in space. Astrobiologist Pascale Ehrenfreund says for the first time scientists would be able to monitor the growth of bacteria in real-time in a way that’s never been done before.


Meanwhile, work has been underway on the ground. Alaska Aerospace Corporation is a state entity that owns the launch complex. Its CEO Dale Nash described the modifications completed at the site in anticipation of next week’s launch.


The launch is set for November 19th. I’m Jacob Resneck.


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