ANCHORAGE — The state-owned space agency on Friday named Lockheed Martin the winner of a bidding process to reconfigure a launch pad to accommodate larger rockets than what the Kodiak Launch Complex can currently handle.
Lockheed Martin beat out three other bidders to reconfigure a launch pad at the Kodiak site, officials with the Alaska Aerospace Corp. said during a news conference in Anchorage.
“It’s a great day,” said Craig Campbell, the corporation’s CEO and president. “It’s what we’ve been trying to achieve for a number of years. And we’re at the point now, we’re at the cusp of being able to really expand our operation and do the stuff that Alaskans have always wanted.”
The Kodiak facility is capable of launching small rockets, but the more lucrative market is with medium-sized rockets, which have larger payloads and go into higher orbits.
Lockheed Martin’s proposal calls for modifications to the launch pad so its Athena IIS rocket and other medium-lift rockets can be launched from the site. The goal is to have three launches by 2020. After the launch pad is reconfigured, it will be able to launch both small- and medium-lift rockets.
The first launch ever from Kodiak in 2001 was a smaller Athena rocket. The payload for the medium-lift Athena IIS is nearly double that of the smaller rocket.
The state agency and Lockheed Martin are expected to hammer out details of an agreement within the next few weeks, but officials said it was important to announce now as some companies are close to making decisions from where to launch rockets.
Alaska Aerospace has been sitting on a $25 million appropriation from the state Legislature to expand to medium launch capability.
Campbell said the project as presented right now would be substantially less than the $21 million request for proposal document, and Lockheed Martin’s presentation puts its somewhere between the $3 million-$6 million range.
The Lockheed Martin agreement comes after some troubling times for the state agency.
The work to reconfigure the launch pad isn’t expected to interfere with reconstruction efforts after a rocket was detonated last August when it failed. Campbell said he wants the launch pad ready by October for any potential customer to come in and begin the process of a rocket launch.
Cleanup of hazardous materials and metal shards continues four months after military testers detonated a rocket carrying an experimental weapon. The rocket was meant to carry a hypersonic glider into the upper atmosphere to test an experimental Army weapons system. Testers destroyed the rocket after they detected an anomaly.
The Alaska facility has struggled financially, with the Legislature there threatening to cut its funding if it didn’t bring in more business.
The state created the Alaska Aerospace Corp. in 1991 to develop an aerospace sector for Alaska’s economy, and the Kodiak Launch Complex was built to compete with Vandenberg Spaceport in California.
The corporation was able to pay for operations from its launches with federal grants. But for the past few years, the Alaska corporation had to rely on state subsidies.