Work continues to pick up the pieces of the failed U.S. Army rocket that exploded moments after launch from Narrow Cape three weeks ago, and the rocket range remains off-limits to the public. In fact, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Jade Gamble, not even state inspectors have been allowed in to determine the environmental impact or to issue any sort of update.
“No there hasn’t been. We don’t have a lot of information on it at this point. It’s been a fairly low public health risk to this point, so we just haven’t put out any type of sit-rep for it.”
“Sit-Rep” is short for situation report, which the DEC issues for pretty much every incident that could affect the environment, including fuel spills. And though it was fuel that did scatter around the Kodiak Launch Complex, it is very different than the standard diesel fuel spill that DEC regularly reports on.
“Right now they’re working on collecting that material and dealing with that material, and we don’t have an estimated time at this point. It may take a bit to do the sampling and get a work plan in place. So this is something a little bit unique to deal with on Kodiak.”
Dozens of square miles of tundra, grassland and wetlands used by humans, bison and cattle are closed off. Berry-picking especially is a common traditional use on the rolling hills surrounding the KLC, but Gamble said it’s not known yet how any residue from the solid rocket fuel will affect the area. Continue reading
In the aftermath of yesterday morning’s rocket explosion at the Kodiak Launch Complex, calls for the facility’s closure have resumed. Never universally popular among Kodiak residents, the KLC has had only one launch in the past three years, yesterday’s, and that blew up, causing what appears to be significant damage to the launch tower and assembly buildings. According to Alaska Aerospace CEO Craig Campbell, there are currently no other launches scheduled.
However, Campbell says it would be premature to conclude that yesterday’s explosion and ensuing damage would bring an end to the Kodiak Launch Complex.
In an e-mail to KMXT, Campbell said a damage assessment and repair estimate will be made over the next week, and that the AAC’s legal counsel and the state’s risk management office will be looking into who is liable for the damages. The U.S. Army leased the Kodiak Launch Complex for $5-million to test its hypersonic glider. Campbell said it’s his intention that AAC “will remain a viable aerospace company for the state of Alaska.”
Formed by the state of Alaska, the AAC has depended heavily on state subsidies, but Campbell said the corporation has no intention to ask the state for capital improvement funds to repair the explosion damage to the Kodiak Launch Complex.
No official photos of the damage at the KLC or debris surrounding it on Narrow Cape have been released. However an aerial photo taken by Kodiak’s Eric Schwantes and posted to Facebook shows extensive superficial damage to both the launch tower and assembly buildings at the launch site. Hundreds of scraps of sheets metal siding can be seen strewn around the structures. The extent of structural damage is not yet known. No damage to the launch control buildings two miles away has been reported.
In an e-mail to KMXT yesterday evening, Alaska Aerospace’s Senior Vice President Mark Greby said road closure restrictions have been moved back. KMXT had reported that yesterday, but the Alaska Department of Transportation later announced the road would be closed at the mouth of the Pasagshak River, before it goes up the bluff. That changed at 9 o’clock last night, when the closure was moved back to the gates of the Kodiak Launch Complex, allowing access to Surfer Beach. Fossil Beach remains inaccessible.
In what is likely to be a well attended and lively meeting, Campbell said the corporation’s board of directors will be meeting in Kodiak on Thursday.
The explosion of an Army rocket at the Kodiak Launch Complex, as seen from Cape Greville, a dozen miles away. Scott Wight photo
The rocket carrying an experimental army strike weapon exploded seconds after take off from the Kodiak Launch Complex at about 12:25 this (Monday) morning. Witnesses report the rocket lifted off, but soon nosed down and either self-destructed or hit the ground and exploded.
As of 5:00 there has been no comment from the Alaska Aerospace Corporation or the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
Scott Wight, a Kodiak photographer, was watching the launch from Cape Greville in Chiniak, about a dozen miles from the launch site. He said even at that distance the explosion was quite loud and a scary sight to see.
Another photographer at Cape Greville said the launch looked out of control and that she wouldn’t be surprised to find out it was detonated from mission control. She said the resulting fire burned brightly for a short while.
At the nose of the rocket was the Army’s Advanced Hypersonic Weapon, which is a rocket-launched glider. According to the Army’s environmental impact statement, the small craft is designed to be lofted to near space before diving deeper into the atmosphere to glide to its target, the Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific at speeds over 3,500 mph.
The Kodiak Launch Complex is about 25-miles from the city of Kodiak.
This is a developing story, and we’ll have more information as it becomes available.
Former Kodiak City Councilman Tom Walters has been re-appointed to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation board of directors, along with David Weldon, a former Florida congressman.
Walters, a local helicopter pilot, has served on the board for six years. He was first appointed while on the Kodiak City Council, where he served for 18 years. He was reappointed to the state-owned corporation as a member representing Kodiak and the private business sector.
Weldon represented Florida’s 15th Congressional District for 14 years and co-founded the Congressional Aerospace Caucus. He was reappointed to represent the aerospace industry.
The Kodiak Launch Complex isn’t located in the most accessible part of the island. It’s more than 35 miles of winding, two-lane highway from the nearest shipping port in Women’s Bay, and another five miles from the Kodiak Benny Benson State Airport. When equipment comes in, especially large equipment for a launch, the road is often completely shut down for many hours to allow safe transport. This is why Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which operates the state-owned launch complex, is looking to build a barge landing site in Pasagshak Bay.
The launch complex has been operating for about 16 years and Alaska Aerospace’s Chief Operating Officer, Mark Greby, said they expect to do more launches in the future. He said the plan to build a barge landing will make operations much simpler, and safer for both AAC and the general public.
“It helps us offload and transfer large equipment from the Kodiak port and harbor, including the equipment and the launch vehicles themselves. By making the move simpler we block the road less, we expose fewer people to the transportation risk caused by blocking the roadway during the long transit to Kodiak Launch Complex. We actually fill the road, you can’t even get off on the shoulder some of the transporters are so big.”
Greby said it’s also a significant cost reduction for AAC and its customers.
“And whenever we can reduce cost, the more attractive we are to our customers, the more business you get. The cost of a move today, from the port all the way to Kodiak, per trip, is about $100,000 with all equipment, permits, notifications, closings, road guards, etc.”
He said the proposed landing, which is currently being reviewed by the Army Corps of Engineers, would cater to standard barges, so goods could be delivered right to the head of the bay, less than four miles from the complex. It wouldn’t be a dock, which Greby said is significantly more difficult to build.
“It’s a rock pier with a roadway put on top of it. That’s all we’re talking about here.” Continue reading
Seven hundred and seven (707) days. That’s how long it’s been since a rocket has taken off from the Kodiak Launch Complex. With huge costs and so little business, Alaska lawmakers have threatened to cut funding for the state enterprise. But now, a new arrangement with the State of the Virginia could help bring the Alaska Aerospace Corporation the contracts it needs to survive. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports. Continue reading