UA Perspectives

Alaska Needs Aerospace Now, More than Ever

When the Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) was created by the legislature almost two decades ago the direction for the company was clear:  

… space-related economic growth, thereby ensuring a stable and dynamic research and business climate by attracting space-related businesses to locate within and utilize the opportunities provided in the state… (A.S. 26.27.090)

For 15 years we were not particularly imaginative and somewhat content having a single Department of Defense military customer dominate launch site activity and revenue creation. That was the aerospace world back then. All that has changed. The commercial space world has become a whole new working arena for AAC. The mission, however, is still unambiguous and now more important than ever. And Kodiak is still only one of four satellite launch sites in the U.S. that can fully tap that growing potential.

As the price of oil remains low and volatile and the state-operating budget faces billion-dollar deficits, the need for Alaska to diversify its economy has never been more urgent. This is exactly what we are in the midst of accomplishing through the current development and growth of AAC within the commercial aerospace world.

AAC Chief Executive Officer Craig Campbell and the Board of Directors have engineered a new marketing strategy for corporate expansion, sustainability, and success by unlocking unprecedented potential in a variety of commercial space businesses and medium lift payload opportunities. Today, we are steadily moving forward toward corporate independence, with a goal of operating without a need for state assistance. We are forecasting our place in a dynamic modern aerospace launch market that is building up ultimately to a tempo of launches per week, not launches per year. The pace of U.S. and international aerospace development is unprecedented today in its burgeoning requirements, and that will continue to grow much as commercial aviation did after WWI.

AAC has scored significant marketing accomplishments through the efforts of a strong executive business team, and we have gained important credibility with leaders in the national and international aerospace industry. The federal government has acknowledged the importance of supporting state spaceports like ours, and with the expected International Traffic in Arms Regulations’ (ITAR) approval, we will be positioned to support the space needs of several U.S. allies as well.

As president of the University of Alaska (UA), I am fortunate to witness first-hand how partnerships with industry can keep our best and brightest UA faculty, students, and workforce engaged at the aerospace cutting-edge, right here at home. And across the U.S. when a university partners with a successful high-tech business, we have seen that others typically join in, forming a business cluster. We are in the process of witnessing just such a new and diverse aerospace development take place across Alaska.

Our elected officials are looking for alternatives to just cutting jobs from state government to cover expenses. AAC is engaged in building revenue generation and job creation while it has been reducing its operating costs by $2M per year, each year, on the way to zero. Today, the Alaska aerospace portfolio is becoming more than rockets launching satellites into space. It is unmanned aircraft counting caribou or tracking ice flows in the Arctic. It is processing data downloaded from NASA satellites. It is space-based tracking and mapping. It is the potential to manufacture value-added aerospace products inside our state using Alaskan labor. It is university mathematics, engineering, research, and internships at work with our aerospace partners. In short, AAC is engaged in building revenue generation and jobs. AAC is one of the best investments that Alaska, an aerospace state like no other, can make.

Our governor has stated his intent to diversify the Alaskan economy, hire Alaskan workers, encourage business partnerships with the state, add value through innovation, and make more productive use of UA throughout that effort. AAC has been reshaped during the last four years and has been redirected by its Board of Directors to do exactly what our governor is calling for. As one of the four primary U.S. satellite launch sites, AAC and its Kodiak facility are essential to meeting the nation’s rapidly growing space-based requirements, offers exceptional commercial opportunity to Alaskans, and best of all Alaska is its home.

Patrick K. Gamble

Chair, Alaska Aerospace Corporation

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