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