SpaceX Private Rocket Shifts to Island Launch

January 28, 2017 – 06:34 pm
The Falcon 1 rocket, developed by SpaceX, fires its first stage engine during a test at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Credit: SpaceX.

LOGAN, Utah-Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of El Segundo, California is putting in place private rocket facilities at a Kwajalein Atoll launch area in the western Pacific Ocean.

Yet the going has been tough for the private start-up, bankrolled by Elon Musk, chairman and chief executive officer of SpaceX.

First, the group's hoped for premier takeoff of the Falcon 1 booster at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California was stymied by an on-going delay of a Titan 4 rocket launch carrying a classified payload. That booster-the last to fly from Vandenberg-remains ground-bound and won't be airborne until this October, if then.

The Falcon 1 at Vandenberg was being readied to loft TacSat-1, a satellite built and integrated by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory for the Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation.

But a far more vexing issue now faces SpaceX.

After spending an estimated $7 million on its Vandenberg Air Force Base facilities, the private rocket company is being told to get out of its Complex 3 West launch site.

"It is just, I think, a travesty, " Musk told in an interview here at the 19th Annual Conference on Small Satellites, sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Utah State University.

Fundamentally unfair

The squeeze play stems from Lockheed Martin moving back to use a Complex 3 East site at Vandenberg for Atlas 5 launches.

"It's like you build your house...somebody else builds a house next to you and tells you to get out of your house. Like, what the hell...after we've made that big investment and everything. We're going to fight that issue because it is just fundamentally unfair, " Musk said.

The Air Force said it has discussed moving SpaceX across the range to Space Launch Complex-4 but has made no decision to evict the company from its current location.


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