Lockheed Martin Space Systems said March 2 that it has chosen Alaska’s Kodiak Launch Complex as its dedicated West Coast facility for Athena rocket launches. The decision is intended to enable Alaska Aerospace Corp. to move ahead with plans to expand Kodiak’s space launch capabilities.
Lockheed Martin said in a press release that it has been working with the state of Alaska and Alaska Aerospace Corp. on expansion plans for a new medium-lift launch pad to support potential Athena 3 launches.
The Denver-based company developed the original Athena 1 and Athena 2 rockets in the 1990s to launch small payloads for government and commercial customers. The market did not materialize as expected and the company stopped offering the vehicles early last decade.
The Athena rockets flew seven times with two failures. The rocket last flew in September 2001, carrying experimental payloads for NASA and the U.S. Air Force.
That mission was Kodiak’s first orbital launch.
Lockheed Martin announced last year its intent to offer Athena 2 services with a ride-share launch from Kodiak in late 2013.
In the meantime, Lockheed Martin is evaluating the business case for conducting Athena 3 launches from Alaska. The envisioned rocket would be capable of launching satellites weighing 4,600 kilograms from the United States’ West Coast and 5,900 kilograms from its East Coast.
Lockheed Martin said in the release that it expects to finalize its plans for Athena 3 during the next few months.