On Jan. 10, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., released his 2017 Wastebook Porkémon, which highlighted the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska (PSCA) and the recent contract with Missile Defense Agency as a waste of federal funding. It is my practice to not engage in public discourse with those who disregard facts to make allegations that serve little or no public benefit; however, as president and CEO of Alaska Aerospace Corp., in this case it is imperative the facts be presented so the public may have accurate information from which to have educated discussions about the value PSCA provides to our state and nation in the 21st century.
Unfortunately, Sen. Flake’s report focuses on the spaceport’s development in the 1990s, including highlighting an illegal scheme where two Department of Defense employees pleaded guilty to collecting $1.6 million in payments for directing funds for various DOD projects, which included construction of the Kodiak launch site. Regardless of whether constructing the facility in the 1990’s was a “mistake” or not, and in no way justifying the illegal activities of a few DOD employees nearly 20 years ago, the federal government invested $151 million in PSCA, which resulted in the United States having a state-of-the-industry, truly commercial launch facility, not co-located on a federal range, offering tailored services to meet customer requirements with unique flexibility and schedule assurance.
Last year, MDA selected PSCA due to our unique capabilities, geographical location and ability of offer low-cost services. We were awarded an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract, under which we have started supporting future MDA test missions from Alaska. Under the contract terms, we are only paid for specific tasks directed by MDA to support program requirements. By awarding this contract to AAC the U.S. government is able to test mission capabilities while saving millions of taxpayer dollars over conducting the same tests from any other site. So today PSCA offers our nation a valuable and affordable launch alternative, no longer subsidized by our state or federal governments.
We also have diversified from a company wholly dependent on government contracts to one actively engaged with the emerging commercial small launch vehicle market. We have a contract with Rocket Lab USA to support their Electron rocket test program, with launches planned from PSCA as early as 2018. We also have a contract with Vector Space Systems supporting development of their new ultra-small commercial launch vehicle with launches from PSCA. This is not the same AAC of just five years ago, so to have a report claim PSCA is “pork” based on irrelevant information two decades old is misleading, at the least.
To illustrate the economic impact PSCA has on the Kodiak community, our launches in 2010 and 2011 each generated approximately a $3 million positive economic influx into Kodiak through lodging and vehicle rentals, food, beverage, clothing, and miscellaneous purchases, personal leisure activities during time off and logistics support. This all within about a 90-day launch period. And it goes without saying that our annual investment in Kodiak, which exceeds $2 million in employee salaries, utilities and service contracts, is beneficial to the community.
While our 2014 launch resulted in significant damage to our facilities due to the launch vehicle failure, it is important to note that we were insured for damages and did not require a legislative appropriation to complete the reconstruction. In fact, I am pleased that over 90 percent of all reconstruction work was completed by Alaskan companies, providing jobs and income to Alaskans.
In closing, I wish to thank the Kodiak community for your steadfast support in allowing us to operate PSCA at Narrow Cape, providing Alaska a real aerospace capability and a revenue stream from both commercial and government contracts at a time when our state needs to diversify our economy.
Craig E. Campbell is president and CEO of Alaska Aerospace Corp.