KODIAK — Alaska Aerospace Corporation has announced a new agreement that could bring $125 million in new investment to the Kodiak Launch Complex and send more rockets soaring into the skies above Kodiak Island’s Narrow Cape.

On Friday, Lockheed Martin selected Kodiak as the West Coast site for its new Athena III medium-lift rocket. The Athena III is an upgraded version of a rocket that launched from Kodiak in 2001 and lifted the launch complex’s first satellites into orbit. An Athena II will launch from Kodiak in 2013.

“As we move forward together, we anticipate regular launches of Athena rockets from KLC. This will benefit both the nation and Alaska as work content and the associated jobs develop within the state,” said Alaska Aerospace CEO Dale Nash in a statement.

The Athena III will require a new launch pad at the Narrow Cape spaceport, and Lockheed Martin is pursuing $100 million in financing for construction.

Gov. Sean Parnell was deeply involved in the Lockheed Martin negotiations, Nash said last week, but asked that the information remain confidential until Friday’s announcement.

Parnell said he will ask the Alaska Legislature to put $25 million in the state’s capital budget for the expansion needed to launch the Athena III. The funding would allow detailed engineering to begin while the remaining money is raised through Lockheed Martin for construction to start as soon as this summer. The first Athena III launch could come from Kodiak as soon as 2014.

That launch depends on successful completion of the new launch pad and Lockheed Martin’s ability to find a customer who needs a satellite delivered to orbit.

The state’s $25 million contribution would be on top of $8 million inserted into the state’s operations budget to support the aerospace corporation next year.

“The Kodiak Launch Complex plays a critical role in our nation’s security. Construction of this additional launch pad will not only bring business to Alaska, but it will also create high-paying jobs in the future,” Parnell said in a statement.

Rep. Alan Austerman, who represents Kodiak in the Alaska House and is a nonvoting member of the corporation’s board, said he thinks the Legislature will approve the governor’s request.

Last week, Austerman said if the corporation couldn’t come up with a successful contract, it might have to close or sell the Kodiak Launch Complex by fall. Friday’s announcement was the kind of progress he was looking for, he said.

In testimony Thursday before the finance subcommittee of the Senate’s Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, Nash said Athena III launches, in conjunction with smaller Athena II launches, could be enough to get the corporation to break even.

“As you start to get to four launches a year, you are probably pretty close to where it can be self-sustaining,” he said. “It is not out of the realm at all where we could get into that market.”

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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