A photo tour of Vandenberg Air Force Base

April 21, 2015 – 08:42 am

Yesterday, as part of my visit to Vandenberg Air Force Base to give a space history lecture to the local section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, I was given a short tour of these west coast launch facilities. While Kennedy is used for launches that circle the equator, Vandenberg, with its southern-facing coast, launches rockets that head south over the ocean for a polar orbit.

We only had time to go inside one launchpad, where unfortunately I was not permitted to take pictures.Taurus launch site However, the images I did get will give you a reasonable sense of the layout for this spaceport, which is increasingly becoming a spaceport for private launch companies like ULA and SpaceX. Though the bulk of business for both companies here might be military and government payloads, the future is still going to include a lot of private payloads. The images also help to highlight the differences between these two companies, as well as some past history, as one of these launchpads was once intended for the space shuttle, though never used for that purpose.

Before we took a look at the active ULA and SpaceX launch facilities, Steve Tullino took me to see some older and now abandoned launch complexes in the base’s northern areas.ULA/Atlas 5 launchpad The image on the right was the launchpad used for a very early version of the Atlas 5 rocket, called the Atlas A. The pad itself hasn’t been used for decades, as you can see by the panels that have fallen off the side of the structure. Still, it is cheaper to leave it standing than to bulldoze it down. Eventually, if the launch business grows, this location could come back to life, and when it does, the company that leases it will either use what is there or tear it down to build their own launch facilities.

Steve noted that to him it would be a shame to see this launch tower bulldozed, but I pointed out that I’d much rather we had a vibrant working launchpad than another memorial to past achievements. The present American culture seems too eager to memorialize the past with monuments, rather than celebrate the future with new achievements. We have plenty of memorials. I instead want some new rockets heading skyward.

Atlas V launchpad Side view SpaceX facility Falcon 9 strongback ULA/Delta launchpad

Source: behindtheblack.com

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  • avatar Are there any job openings at Vandenberg Air Force base?
    • Yes, there is many to choose from. From Medical Connections to Criticalconnection.