Cleanup starts after rocket explodes during Alaska launch

ANCHORAGE — A rocket carrying an experimental Army strike weapon that exploded during launch has damaged buildings at the Kodiak Launch Complex, but state officials will wait until after a cleanup to assess what it will cost to make repairs.

Several buildings sustained bent or broken sheet-metal siding, roofs, doors or windows on Monday, Craig Campbell, president and chief executive officer of Alaska Aerospace Corp., told the Alaska Dispatch News.

“It affected the launch tower, the payload processing facility, and the integrated processing facility,” Campbell said. “These are all significant buildings — they’re what we use to launch a rocket.”

The target Monday was Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands but Army flight controllers blew up the rocket for safety reasons after detecting an anomaly, according to the Defense Department.

Debris from the three-stage, solid-fuel launch vehicle fell on the state-owned launch facility on Kodiak Island. No one was injured.

The rocket carried the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon, a glider designed to fly at thousands of miles per hour and reach targets anywhere in the world in less than an hour.

The Defense Department paid about $5 million to lease the launch complex, Campbell said. He watched the launch from a maintenance building about 2 miles away and said the rocket crashed in a “gigantic explosion.”

“It was a significant event, but it wasn’t the scariest thing I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “We’re going to have to assess damages and figure out what the future is.”

A military safety team from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson was assigned to clean up unexploded fuel and other debris.

No other launches are pending, Campbell said.

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