Alaska Aerospace Corporation facility to hold first commercial launch

From the AAC facility in Kodiak, taken 2016. (Photo by Kayla Desroches / KMXT)

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The Alaska Aerospace Corporation is scheduled to conduct its first commercial launch at its Kodiak facility over the next few days.

In 2014, a failed military test launch led to an explosion at the facility.

Since then, the corporation has rebranded, rebuilt, and is seeking a new direction. Part of that means contracting with commercial companies, like the one planning to launch sometime between July 14 and 20.

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Two weeks before the launch, the rocket is already at the facility.

“When the rocket is on its stool and ready to launch, this building rolls away, and the rocket is exposed and ready to go.”

Facilities director Bruce Walter says the Alaska Aerospace Corporation has agreed not to share its client’s name, but the company’s rocket is housed in one of the buildings.

All three of the buildings on this lot are new. Walter explains AAC rebuilt them following the 2014 accident.

“All new siding, electrical components, mechanical components. Everything was destroyed.”

In that last few years, AAC has started serving commercial clients.

Along with that, Walter says they’re now catering to a smaller brand of rocket.

“People are making satellites now the size of a shoe box, so as this technology grows and more and more startup companies are trying to get all of these little satellites into space, they need a place to launch, and we offer the perfect opportunity for that.”

AAC president and CEO Craig Campbell also sees a more sustainable path for the corporation in its commercial future. He says the launches are potentially more frequent due to less bureaucracy and usually require fewer people than military ones.

“Which means we can spread out the economic benefits over a longer period of time throughout the year for the community and, for us, it means lower cost launches because it’s not so many people. It’s not quite such an intense operation to launch a small commercial rocket as it is to do a government operation.”

AAC is often unable to share details about some of their clients by contract, but Walter says they’re trying to form a stronger relationship with the public. He drives by a space, right across from the company’s main offices, set aside with that intention.

“This bob wire fence comes down. We’ll provide parking. We’re having some interactive displays made so that you can not only look at the rocket, but on placards there’ll be information about the rockets and things we do here.”

AAC president and CEO Craig Campbell says it will eventually become a place where people can come watch launches. He says AAC anticipates a few more commercial launches from the facility later this year.

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