Space: December 26, 2000

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The new Kodiak Launch Center is to open in Alaska early next year. It can launch up to 8,000 pounds into low Earth orbit. It has two features unique among spaceports. First, it has a much wider range of possible orbits available. Launching generally south over the Pacific, there are no inhabited areas that could be endangered by a failed launch. The Kodiak complex is intended for polar orbits (and highly elliptical orbits) which are often used by low-orbit communications, science, and spy satellites. With no population centers to watch out for, a range safety officer would have much longer to decide if a troubled launch could be saved. The second unique feature (making a virtue of necessity) is a huge service structure that will keep a booster and satellite protected from the weather until moments before launch. Other launch facilities must unveil their boosters hours or days before launch, running a risk of weather damage. All prelaunch preparations, assembly, checks, and service would be protected from the weather in a building 175 feet high fitted with a 50-ton bridge crane. The building is climate controlled, and air filters can produce a "clean" environment.--Stephen V Cole

 


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