Kodiak complex launches third rocket

Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2001

KODIAK (AP) -- The third launch at Kodiak's Rocket Launch Complex went off perfectly, officials of the facility said Friday.

The launch caught a good-weather window Thursday just ahead of a storm front that settled onto Kodiak.

''Watching a rocket go off is a patriotic thing,'' said Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation Director Pat Ladner, who has lobbied hard to build the commercial space facility in Kodiak.

The rocket's suborbital trajectory was 100 miles high by 360 miles long. Ladner said the rocket flew right down the center of its projected pathway.

The AADC contracted a unique mobile range safety system to track the rocket and destroy it if it did not appropriately. The launch was the first mission of the mobile Army ''Honeywell'' unit, which allows for the safety of rockets fired in remote locations.

The AADC plans to build two similar range safety systems, one local and one down range, to make the commercial facility self sufficient sometime next year.

The launch Thursday was not visually impressive from a vantage point in Kodiak 40 miles away but Ladner said that will change when the range launches an Athena rocket.

The multistage Lockheed Athena, scheduled for August, will carry several payloads into outer space, the first orbital shot from the Kodiak site, Ladner said.

One other launch is scheduled this year. The Army on June 12 plans a suborbital three-stage shot to provide a target for a Department of Defense missile defense program exercise.

The launch Thursday was witnessed by state Sen. Allen Austerman, R-Kodiak, who said he hopes Kodiak can diversify its struggling economy into the space industry. He envisions Kodiak as a center for building satellites.

''The long-term economic growth pattern is the most important part of this,'' Austerman said. ''We need to capitalize into what they're going to be putting into space. ''We need to bring parts here (for assembly), train people here.''

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