Spaceport

IRIS SAMUELS/Kodiak Daily Mirror

Alaska Aerospace Corp. President and CEO Mark Lester explains newly acquired meteorological systems at the spaceport during an October open house.  

The Alaska Aerospace Corp. will be hosting a Spaceport Planning Advisory Group meeting next week to discuss facility requirements and development alternatives for the Pacific Spaceport Complex - Alaska masterplan. 

The planning group, known as SPAG, consists of representatives of various organizations in Kodiak and aims to solicit input on the spaceport’s master planning process. The upcoming meeting, scheduled for Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. in the Harbor Room at the Kodiak Best Western Inn, is open to the public.

The master plan intends to provide guidelines for the spaceport’s development and expansion between 2020 and 2030.

The two chapters under discussion are “Facility Requirements” and “Development Alternatives Evaluation,” the fourth and fifth chapters of the plan. Highlights include proposals to build an airstrip and permanent housing facilities near the spaceport.

While the emphasis is on further growth, the plan proposed shrinking the amount of land available for the spaceport for expansion.

“In developing PSCA for the future, the spaceport also has sufficient lands to accommodate all envisioned future needs. In fact, there may be the opportunity to reduce the current 3,717 acres of land under the ILMA (Interagency Land Use Management Agreement) and still meet all projected future demand,” the draft states.

Under the “Facility Requirements” chapter, the proposal lists a forecast of increasing launches in the coming years, beginning at eight launches in 2020 and growing to 38 by 2030. The chapter includes recommendations for each of the existing facilities at the launchsite.

The current draft plan recommends locating a site for the construction of a future launch pad once other sites are used to capacity, for both liquid and hybrid designs.

Additionally, the plan predicts the need for a facility to accommodate balloon launch vehicles. The future site would measure 800 feet by 250 feet, and likely be placed on or near previously developed land, according to the document.

The plan identifies the need for off-axis telemetry and optics capability for launches of some rockets, which would require a location removed from existing developed areas of the spaceport. According to the plan, the first development alternative to meet this need would be in Pasagshak Point, an area outside of the spaceport land agreement.

Pasagshak Point is an area used by the public for fishing and hiking, among other activities. According to the spaceport plan, the public would be restricted from being near any equipment installed, but would otherwise continue to have access to the area. 

According to the document, the spaceport is interested in pursuing a long-term lodging solution that would provide up to 300 rooms on or near spaceport property for both government and commercial launch customers. However, the current Interagency Land Use Management Agreement between Alaska Aerospace and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources does not permit the establishment of a permanent lodging facility at the spaceport.

The plan suggests that a change to the land agreement might be necessary, and proposed several possible locations.

Alternatively, the plan proposes that Alaska Aerospace would purchase the existing 56-room Narrow Cape Lodge and expand it through a joint venture with a private sector company or Native corporation. Narrow Cape Lodge is regularly used by spaceport clients. 

The plan also suggests that the land agreement may be changed to reflect a smaller acreage in order to limit the use of public lands in the area. The current agreement provides the spaceport 3,717 acres. In the past, members of the public have expressed concern over loss of access to public recreation lands in the area, including Fossil Beach.

“Alaska Aerospace recognizes the high value community residents place in access to Narrow Cape and the use of the public trail system,” the draft plan states. “As future infrastructure alternatives are developed for the planning period, the locations and use of the trail system will be considered.”

Alternatively, the plan proposes converting the land management agreement into a lease, which would mean any lodging facilities constructed at the spaceport would be subject to Kodiak Island Borough taxes. Previous temporary housing facilities have been exempt from borough taxes.

The spaceport also expressed an interest in making use of the Coast Guard LORAN-C Navigation Site. The site is owned by the Coast Guard but is within the boundaries of the spaceport land management agreement. Gaining access to the existing facility, which is not actively used by the Coast Guard, could allow the spaceport to expand its facilities without further developing the land in the Narrow Cape area.

According to the document, initial review of the LORAN-C site indicated it would be a good location for an additional antenna cluster.

Alaska Aerospace has contacted Coast Guard Civil Engineering Unit Oakland regarding a potential transfer of the lease area and facilities to Alaska Aerospace for spaceport development.

The plan also considers the possibility for a runway to be constructed at the spaceport. The airport would serve to transport equipment to the spaceport, as well as serving as an alternative to Kodiak Airport and for flight training. 

According to the document, the runway would likely be 5,000 feet long. The first choice for a runway location would be located near Burton Ranch Road and require relocating the road approximately 200 feet. 

At this point, the document states an airport is “not critical to the spaceport operations.”

The document states that maintaining public access along Burton Ranch Road is necessary. Burton Ranch owners have previously stated that they have encountered difficulties in dealing with Alaska Aerospace and suspect that the spaceport will eventually expand to cover the property of the ranch. The ranch is for sale.

To minimize impact on public land use, the planning document recommends maintaining public access to Fossil Beach Road; grouping new development areas close together to minimize disturbance of undeveloped lands; and considering reducing the boundaries of the spaceport in areas that are not necessary to meet future development requirements.

The Alaska Aerospace Corp. will hold an additional meeting for the public in January, after incorporating input from SPAG. 

 

 

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