Some Kodiak residents are not happy with a seemingly harmless landscape photo recently posted online. The reason — the picture was taken from a proposed launch pad for the space technology company Vector Launch incorporated at Kodiak’s Pacific Spaceport Complex.
Locals worry any more development at the spaceport will deface the area and limit access to public land.
The sky is blue and the sun is shining in the photo Vector Launch Incorporated recently posted on its Facebook and Twitter pages. In it, you can see the Pacific Ocean, snowy mountains, and a group of people standing near a cliff.
On its surface, it’s just a pretty picture, but what caught the attention of Kodiak residents was its caption. “Vector’s proposed new launch pad at [the] Pacific Spaceport Complex [in] Kodiak, AK.”
This sparked a conversation on the community’s Facebook forum “Friends of Kodiak,” where residents worried if a new launchpad would be constructed in an area known for camping and whale watching would be negatively affected.
“I’m an Alaskan, my predecessors were not. I have a vested interest in making sure we are good stewards of our land.”
Craig Campbell is the President and CEO of the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, or AAC, which owns and operates Kodiak’s spaceport. He says there are currently no plans for building a launchpad for Vector and that AAC is committed to keeping the public land the spaceport sits on — open. Especially, he says, Fossil Beach.
“We are very concerned always about keeping access to Fossil Beach available for the local residents and we know it’s a popular recreation area. So, our intent is to always keep the access road and the beach available to the public, except for those limited times when we may have launches.”
At the moment there is no long-term agreement between the two companies. Campbell says AAC is working on a deal with Vector on a potential rocket launch later this year, but nothing is set in stone.
“We are looking to bringing them up here later this year, and hopefully conduct, at least their initial launches here and hopefully a long-term relationship where they’ll do commercial launches in the future from Kodiak.”
The photo that Vector posted was taken in an area of the spaceport where there are already three small pads that could be used by Vector to launch their small liquid-fueled rockets. Campbell says any modifications to them would be simple and if another launchpad was constructed it would be small and minimal.
“It’d just be a square of dirt and gravel fenced off with, probably, lighting and, probably, a small concrete pad where the actual engine would ignite when it launches.”
AAC is looking at increasing the number of launches it does a year, which would make the spaceport off limits to the public more often. But, Campbell says closures should only last for a few hours at a time.
The Alaska Aerospace Corporation is planning on holding a public forum in Kodiak in the next few months to give an update on its operations and to hear public input on its future plans.