Despite the fact that it is still in the midst of assessing damage from a failed missile test in August, Alaska Aerospace Corporation is soliciting companies for future launches, and is offering them more than $20 million. The corporation, which operates the Kodiak Launch Complex, issued a request for proposals, or RFPs earlier this month for companies interested in medium-lift, commercial launches from the site. The money used to entice bidders comes from a $25 million appropriation by the Alaska Legislature.
Matt Steele is the Vice President of Alaska Aerospace and said the money was set aside specifically for bringing medium-lift launch classes to Kodiak, but there hadn’t really been a lot of action from potential launch bidders.
“So what we did is kind of change the paradigm a little bit and put together a request for proposal where these companies could compete for the money in order to provide medium lift-capability to KLC. And kind of by changing that, as we expected, we’ve got a couple of launch companies now interested in using that money to further advance the medium lift capability here in Kodiak.”
Up until now, the current launch facility has only flown what Steele considers to be small launches, and the company wants to beef that up.
“So we’re looking for things, roughly greater than 2,000 pounds to orbit, potentially up to maybe 5 to 7,000 pounds depending on the capability of the rocket in gross terms. But there’s some fidelity that goes behind that in qualifications as well, but bigger than what’s been flown out of Kodiak in the past is definitely what we’re looking for.”
Steele said they are asking for folks to respond to the RFP before Thanksgiving, and the company will select the top two for further information and then hopefully select the winner by mid December and award that company the $21 million fixed-price contract. He said there are a few companies expressing interest, and they will have to commit to at least three launches between 2016 and 2020 if they are selected.
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration is seeking public comments on a draft environmental assessment for expansions at the Kodiak Launch Complex, including a new, larger launch pad and additional facilities.
Steele said it’s unclear whether the winning RFP will utilize that new space, or the existing launch pad, where the failed missile test launched from this summer.
“We actually don’t know, we’ve given a lot of latitude for the bidders to come back and provide what they think might be the most cost effective way and what works for one may not work for the other so until we see the responses back we’re not sure just exactly how this is going to look.”
He said it’s also unknown when the new launch pad will be built, and will depend on what company wins the RFP bid and when they hope to launch.
“It will be a function of when the EA is finished as well as when they would actually need it for their first launch. And quite frankly until we see the responses – I don’t know what that answer is.”
As far as the failed launch in August, Steele said he doesn’t believe it will affect the request for RFP’s.
“No, they’re really kind of independent and about the time, hopefully, that we finish up the insurance assessments and everything like that, the RFP’s will be in. Plus the contractors we’re talking to are very aware of how this business works and they understand sometimes how these circumstances come so it will not have a negative impact at all.”
Steele said Alaska Aerospace will announce the winner in December and provide a tentative launch schedule once it is available.