Kodiak Launch Complex faces funding cut

KODIAK — The Alaska Legislature will cut the budget for the Alaska Aerospace Corp. by 25 percent if it doesn’t sign a long-term contract to launch rockets from its Kodiak Launch Complex.

The contract must be signed by March 31.

Lawmakers put this catch into the corporation’s funding during the last legislative session, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported. That would be on top of a 1 percent funding cut, or $80,000, in this year’s budget.

If the 25 percent cut becomes a reality, the level of state funding would be below what corporation officials said would be necessary to maintain the launch complex and keep the corporation viable.

“I concurred with the challenge that we need to produce a customer in the next fiscal year,” said Alaska Aerospace Corp. CEO Craig Campbell. “They actually gave us a little breathing room.”

The state created the Alaska Aerospace Corp. in 1991 to develop an aerospace sector for Alaska’s economy, and the Kodiak Launch Complex was built to compete with Vandenberg Spaceport in California.

The corporation was able to pay for operations from its launches with federal grants. But for the past two years, the Alaska corporation has had to rely on state subsidies.

The state provided $4 million to the corporation in 2011 and $8 million last year, when Gov. Sean Parnell also approved $25 million to expand the Kodiak facility. The corporation also received $8 million this year in funding from the Legislature, minus the 1 percent decline in line with most other state agencies.

Rep. Alan Austerman, a member of the corporation’s board of directors, said some lawmakers’ patience is running out.

“We can’t just let it continue to go on and on and on,” the Kodiak Republican said.

The corporation is in talks with two companies for launches, but that would entail enlarging the facility. Officials are also negotiating with other companies to launch smaller rockets.

“I think I’m going to have one in the near term, this year,” Campbell said.

State Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, predicts there will be successful projects and launches from Kodiak in the next two years.

“I think it’ll show that they’re in the market and they can successfully compete,” Stevens said.

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