AAC Announces New Deal with Lockheed Martin



An artist rendering of how the Athena II-S6 would appear on Launch Pad 1 at the Kodiak Launch Complex. Image provided

Jay Barrett/KMXT

The big announcement from the Alaska Aerospace Corporation Friday afternoon did involve the future launching of larger rockets from Narrow Cape, but not rockets 10-times the size of the ones Kodiak Launch Complex is currently capable of. In fact, they won’t even be twice as big. Lockheed Martin’s Al Simpson:

“Close to 185 percent over. It’s a… One way to describe it in our industry is we describe it as delta-2 class lift capability. One of the things you’ll notice in the marketplace right now is there’s not a lot of that capability flying off the west coast,” Simpson said. “So having that replacement for a delta-2 capability that’s out of production – there’s only a few left that fly –  we see that as a real niche area for us as we go forward.”

The Athena II-S6 will have a payload capability of 3,300 kilograms, or about three-and-a-half tons. Alaska Aerospace CEO Craig Campbell says advancements in rocket science have driven up the payload of smaller launch vehicles.

“They were able to put the lift capability on a smaller rocket and changing the sizing of the fairing to make for a heavier payload on a shorter, smaller rocket that actually fit into LP-1 – with some modifications,” Campbell said. “So the big difference here is we’ve now able to bring medium-lift capability to Alaska without a $150-million infrastructure investment.”

That $150-million investment Campbell referred to stems from the 2012 deal with Lockheed Martin, that is different than Friday’s deal with Lockheed Martin. That one would require a third launch pad at Narrow Cape to accommodate much larger rockets – the ones up to 10-times as large. That’s still in the works, but on the back burner as the FAA completes an environmental assessment and grant funds are found to build a dock in Pasagshak Bay to ship in the rocket stages.

Campbell sold the modifications to launch pad one as a win for the environment.

“By staying just to LP1, we don’t have to do disturbance to the land on the west side of the road by building a new launch pad and have two out there,” he said. “We;ll actually be able to increase our market-share, do more activity  at a lower cost and without disrupting the environment as much.”

Launch pad 1 was heavily damaged in the August explosion of an Army rocket. Repairs to it and surrounding structures will cost about $9-million. The exact details of the deal with Lockheed Martin will be worked out in the coming weeks.

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