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Rocket launches to continue despite explosion

By Dave Leval 8:43 PM August 27, 2014

Craig Campbell remains positive despite a setback.

“It’s a pretty good letdown when it doesn’t work as advertised,” said the president of Alaska Aerospace.

The state-run company operates the Kodiak Launch Complex on the island, which is where a military rocket exploded early Monday morning, seconds after it blasted off on its mission.

Alaska Aerospace has helped the state reach for the stars since the 1990s. Monday’s test failed, but Campbell does not believe the launch failure should permanently harm the company.

“The state has invested about $55 million in Alaska Aerospace over the last 15 years,” Campbell said. “We have received nearly $300 million in federal revenues, and in customer launch fees.”

However, things have not been taking off as often as Campbell would like. Alaska Aerospace averages a launch roughly every three years instead of once a year.

“About 80 percent of U.S. satellites are launched overseas because of our environmental permitting problems and the cost of doing business in America,” Campbell said.

That’s why Alaska Aerospace is exploring other opportunities in the industry. Rocket launches are a major source of revenue for the company. However, it’s not clear when the next one will take place.

Still, the thought of more launches has some folks on the island nervous.

“A lot of concern about what’s in the rockets, where they’re going to come down,” said John Burnett. “A lot of fishing boats, a lot of recreational people in the area — a large segment of Kodiak has concerns about rockets going up.”

Alaska Aerospace is trying to find out what went wrong and fix those problems before the next launch.

Campbell stresses Alaska Aerospace is not responsible for what happened Monday. It owns the launch complex but leases the property to agencies that staff it with their personnel.

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