Kodiak Spaceport lands big customer

A THAAD missile launch in 2015. File photo: MDA
A THAAD missile launch in 2015. File photo: MDA

The Missile Defense Agency is bringing some business to Kodiak’s space launch facility. The MDA announced today it is awarding a sole-source contract to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation that could be worth as much as $80 million over the next six years.

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U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says the contract will require new construction at the complex.

“Potential housing, sewer, water, because this is going to entail, for the testing, a significant number of soldiers coming in, not permanently stationed there, but for a number of months,” Sullivan said.

The contract is for an indefinite number of launches at the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska,and for range support services.

Alaska Aerospace CEO Craig Campbell says the Missile Defense Agency plans to bring their own launch equipment to the complex, and won’t use the structure that’s there now. He said that would leave the existing launch pads free for other customers.

The MDA work at Kodiak would be to test the THAAD system, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. It’s designed to block short- and intermediate-range enemy missiles in their terminal phase, as they’re zooming down to earth. It’s separate from the mid-course system, which includes interceptors based at Fort Greely. Sullivan says the Missile Defense Agency is expecting to do two test launches of THAAD next year.

“There’s so much going on in missile defense in Alaska. And so much new spending. And so much … relevance in terms of our position in the globe and what we represent,” Sullivan said. “And the threat is only increasing. So I think we’re going to see, and we’re certainly going to press for continued, continued focus on Alaska as the cornerstone of missile defense.”

Kodiak Borough Mayor Jerrol Friend says more activity at the launch complex helps the island’s economy and even boosts tourism.

“They do a lot of business with a lot of local people, from shops to contractors to electricians. Security people,” he said.

The Kodiak spaceport has not had a launch since an explosion during an Army launch in 2014.

South Korea is already negotiating with the U.S. to host THAAD missiles. Its defense minister said last week he believes THAAD will counter the threat from North Korea.



Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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