Vandenberg Air Force Base

While working on my ICBM site catalog ( http://w3.uwyo.edu/~jimkirk/sites.html), I was majorly sidetracked exploring Vandenberg Air Force Base. It's a cool place because they've had at least one of just about every kind of missile, and still do ICBM testing and polar-orbit launches.

A few resources:

A few other points of reference for which photos are boring:

576th SMS 576th FTS 395th SMS 394th SMS 30th SW 30th SW

(Patches courtesy of USAFPatches.com, strategic-air-command.com, sacpatches.com which is now gone, and an eBay auction)

The people: Various squadrons have worked at Vandenberg. This list is not complete.

Vandenberg Air Force base is on the west coast of southern California, near Santa Maria. It is most commonly associated with tests and development of military missiles but is also used to launch polar-orbiting satellites. It had almost completed a space shuttle launch facility when the Challenger accident occurred, causing the air force to rethink launch methods and abandon shuttle launches. They are also an operational site (not just a test site), in this case for the Ground-Based Iterceptor (GBI) which is the latest anti-missile missile.

In early 2005 I noticed they once again are offering public tours, see http://www.vandenberg.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=4658 which states, in part, Public base tours are offered through the Public Affairs office the 2nd Wednesday of each month. Reservations are required at least one week in advance and can be made by calling (805) 606-6139. No walk-ons are accepted the day of the tour. Refer to the factsheet for further details and changes.

Photo Coordinates ID

Google Maps
34-45-30  120-37-20 Thor
Thor was an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) tested/developed at Vandenberg and deployed in England and Italy. The site was later re-developed as Space Launch Complex 2, from which Delta rockets are launched; they are built by McDonnell-Douglas, now part of Boeing. See http://www.boeing.com/history/mdc/thor.htm for Boeing's brief history on Thor, and http://boeing.com/defense-space/space/delta for their info on Delta II and Delta IV.

Google Maps
34-46-46  120-36-00 Atlas D
576 A
576A1 details
576A2 details
576A3 details
The very first Atlas D sites, these were above ground with open support towers. Of the three original towers only one remains and if you look closely at the photo it's casting a long shadow in the eastern-most pad (#3). Chapman (page 146) refers to a Launch Complex 65-1 with the pads labeled A, B, and C. These missiles were on alert from 31 October 1959 until 1 May 1964. Note in the upper-left corner of the full-size images you can also see Titan II site 395-B. These sites were also known as ABRESA1-3 from 1965 to 1971 (along with 576B which were renamed ABRESB1-3; see http://www.astronautix.com/sites/vanabres.htm for details), and BMRSA1-3 from 1971 to 1989 (see http://www.astronautix.com/sites/vangbmrs.htm). In a map circa 1989 this area is also labeled "Amroc" which was the American Rocket Corporation (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMROC). Between 1985 and 1994 Amroc was developing a new rocket motor utilizing a solid fuel and liquid oxygen that was throttlable and restartable. In 1994 they filed for bankruptcy. According to http://www.spacedev.com/newsite/templates/subpage3.php?pid=185 (link now dead, but the same sort of information is available on their current web site), "In 1998 SpaceDev acquired patents, intellectual property rights and a large quantity of rocket motor and launch vehicle designs produced by the former American Rocket Company (AMROC)." Try for example http://www.spacedev.com/hybrid_detail.php?id=1. The color photo was sent to me by Jeff Goodman.

SpaceDev also has a test facility in southern Orange County, California, see http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0702/01spacedev. And they are now Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), Space Systems.


Google Maps
34-47-30  120-35-36 Atlas D
576 B
576B1 details
576B2 details
576B3 details
and
Atlas E
65-OSTF-1
(576 F)
OSTF details
Stumpf (map, page 129) identifies a nearby area as 65-OSTF-1 which would be the Operational Suitability Test Facility for Atlas (SM-65). The thumbnail picture above does not show the OSTF but it's in the full-size image, upper-right corner. The first color photo appears to have been taken at 65-OSTF-1 based on terrain, shadow, and the fact it's an above-ground Atlas E (operational sites were semi-underground). The other color photos, of 576-B and 65-OSTF-1, were sent to me by Jeff Goodman. 576B was renamed ABRES B in 1965, along with 576A (see http://www.astronautix.com/sites/vanabres.htm. I'm told that OSTF-1 was also known as 576 F.

Google Maps
34-48-32  120-35-01 Atlas E
576 C
576 C details
576-C was an Atlas E site, which would normally be semi-buried. Here it was constructed above ground but resembled a normal site in most respects. Thanks to Fred Epler for setting me straight on the location.

Google Maps
34-49-20  120-33-35
Atlas F
576 D
576 D details
and
65-OSTF-2
(576 G)
OSTF details
The USGS image shows 65-OSTF-2 (upper left) and Atlas site 576 D (lower right), based on Stumpf's map (page 129). OSTF would have been the Operational Suitability Test facility, the second for the Atlas ICBM perhaps because of significant differences with the earlier Atlas missiles. I'm told OSTF-2 was also known as 576 G.

Google Maps
34-44-22  120-37-09 Atlas F, Taurus
576 E
576 E details
Stumpf (map, page 129) tentatively identifies this as "576 E Under Construction." Physically it looks somewhat like an Atlas F site. Orbital Sciences launches their Taurus rockets from this site (Spaceflight Now reports launches from "Area 576-E", and the Taurus fact sheet here shows a launch photo that looks like this location). One configuration, the SSLV Taurus, uses a Peacekeeper first stage. According to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/permits/vafb_iha.pdf this is a candidate site for missile defense launches (it also refers to this as SLC-576, possibly in error).

Google Maps
34-48-22  120-32-40 Titan I
395A
395A-1 details
395A-2 details
395A-3 details
Color photo courtesy of Jeff Goodman. The three silos are designated, starting lower-left and going clockwise, 395-A1, 395-A2, and 395-A3 (that would be my understanding of how Titan I silos were designated, though http://planet4589.org/space/log/sites.txt appears to disagree). The group of Titan I and Titan II facilities was also known as Silo Field 395 according to astronautix.com but that web page has disappeared from their web site, try http://web.archive.org/web/20080618051820/www.astronautix.com/sites/vanrg395.htm instead.

Google Maps
34-48-10  120-32-35
Titan I
68-OSTF-1
OSTF details
Operational Suitability Test Facility for Titan I. This site was destroyed on December 3 1960 when the elevator failed while lowering a fully-fueled missile back into the silo. See http://www.afmissileers.org/newsletters/NL1996/jan96.pdf page 6, as well as Stumpf's book for detailed descriptions. The silo was at the far left of the image.

Google Maps
34-48-25  120-32-58
Titan II
68-SLTF
SLTF details
Silo Launch Test Facility for Titan II, though in fact the only missile launched was a Titan I on May 3 1961. The facility was only intended to prove the design of a silo that could fire a missile, and to try out construction methods; later it became the Titan II Operations and Maintenance Missile Trainer (QMT) (Stumpf, pages 26-29). See http://www.siloworld.net/MISC-4/diagraSLTF.htm.

Google Maps
34-46-57  120-36-26 Titan II
395-B
astronautix.com details
The color photo was sent to me by Jeff Goodman.

Google Maps
34-44-04  120-35-48 Titan II
395-C
astronautix.com details

Google Maps
34-42-28  120-35-23 Titan II
395-D
astronautix.com details
Complexes 395-B, 395-C, and 395-D were all used occasionally as actual alert sites between January 1967 and April 1968, depending on other launch activities involving Titan IIs. In December 1969 complexes B and D were deactivated and complex C was mothballed, but was occasionally used for more Titan II launches. It certainly looks to be the best preserved one in the photos.

Google Maps   Google Maps
34-52  120-36 Minuteman
The launch facilities for Minuteman are strung out along the north coastline thus the coordinates are general. Specific launch facilities are enumerated below. Naming changed around 1964 from 394-Ax to LFxx. The entire set of 7 Launch Facilities was once called Silo Field 394 according to an astronautix.com web page that has disappeared but can be found at http://web.archive.org/web/20080618051815/http://www.astronautix.com/sites/vanrg394.htm.

Google Maps
34-50-40  120-35-05 LF-02 (current)
394-A1 (former)
astronautix.com details
Minuteman I, Minuteman II, Minuteman III, Peacekeeper. According to http://www.coastal.ca.gov/cd/W8a-8-2003.pdf this is a candidate site for missile defense launches.

Google Maps
34-50-46  120-34-52 LF-03 (current)
394-A2 (former)
astronautix.com details
Minuteman I, Minuteman II, Minotaur. According to http://www.coastal.ca.gov/cd/W8a-8-2003.pdf this is a candidate site for missile defense launches.

Google Maps
34-51-32  120-36-24 LF-04 (current)
394-A3 (former)
astronautix.com details
Minuteman I, Minuteman II, Minuteman III.

Google Maps
34-51-44  120-36-35 LF-05 (current)
394-A4 (former)
astronautix.com details
Minuteman I, Minuteman II, Minuteman III, Peacekeeper.

Google Maps
34-52-58  120-38-09 LF-06 (current)
394-A5 (former)
astronautix.com details
Minuteman I, Minuteman II, Minuteman III. Since 2000 it has supported Minotaur launches. In http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/permits/vafb_iha.pdf it is stated LF-06 is a candidate for missile defense launches.
34-52-?  120-38-? LF-06a
In http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/permits/vafb_iha.pdf it is stated LF-06a is a potential new site for missile defense launches that would be built near LF-06.

Google Maps
34-53-08  120-38-02 LF-07 (current)
394-A6 (former)
astronautix.com details
Minuteman I, Minuteman II.

Google Maps
34-51-03  120-35-54 LF-08 (current)
394-A7 (former)
astronautix.com details
Minuteman I, Minuteman II, Minuteman III, Peacekeeper, Astrid (a test vehicle to demonstrate laser-pumped propulsion in 1994). LF-08 is actually two launch pads. One is apparently called LF-08, and the other LF-08/Rail. The latter appears to be one of the very small pads inside the LF-08 enclosure, probably the one on the far right (east) corner.

Google Maps
34-52-43  120-38-02 LF-09
astronautix.com details
Minuteman I, Minuteman II, Minuteman III.

Google Maps
34-51-37  120-35-02 LF-10
LCC-01
astronautix.com details
Minuteman III. I understand this is no longer called LF-10, and the site once known as LF-22 (below) has been renamed LF-10. It is therefore unclear whether the astronautix.com web page for LF-10 is for this site or the other one. This is now a pair of Launch Control Centers with LCC 01-A on the left, and LCC 01-B on the right. Between them you can still see the outline of the original launch facility for Minuteman.

Google Maps
34-51-39  120-35-44 LF-21
astronautix.com details
Minuteman II, Minuteman III, Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI, anti-ballistic missile defense). Notice that the northeast corner is cut off, similar to other operational sites built for Minuteman II.

Google Maps
34-51-01  120-35-40 LF-22
LF-10
astronautix.com details
Minuteman II, Minuteman III. I understand this is no longer called LF-22, and was renamed LF-10 (see LF-10, above).

Google Maps
34-51-20  120-35-49 LF-23
astronautix.com details
Minuteman II. Surprisingly, astronautix.com lists only one Minuteman launch, on August 26, 1966. Since 2003 it has been used for missile defense launches.

Google Maps
34-51-22  120-36-09 LF-24
astronautix.com details
Minuteman II. In http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/permits/vafb_iha.pdf it is stated that LF-24 is currently being refurbished as a backup for LF-23 missile defense launches. This is also stated in http://www.coastal.ca.gov/cd/W8a-8-2003.pdf.

Google Maps
34-52-56  120-37-48 LF-25
astronautix.com details
Minuteman II, Minuteman III.

Google Maps
34-53-18  120-38-12 LF-26
astronautix.com details
Minuteman II, Minuteman III.

Google Maps
34-40-44  120-35-32 LC-A
astronautix.com details
Launch Complex A, used for various sounding rockets from 1959 to 1966. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_Arguello_Launch_Complex_A.

Google Maps
34-40-07  120-35-53 LC-B
astronautix.com details
Launch Complex B, used for various sounding rockets from 1960 to 1963. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_Arguello_Launch_Complex_B.

Google Maps
34-36-34  120-37-42 PLC-C
astronautix.com details
Probe Launch Complex C, used for Aerobee and Tomahawk sounding rockets, 1971-1975. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vandenberg_AFB_Probe_Launch_Complex_C.

Google Maps
34-48-14  120-35-21 TP-01
astronautix.com details
Peacekeeper, SICBM (Small ICBM, also nicknamed "Midgetman", see http://w3.uwyo.edu/~jimkirk/midgetman.html). According to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/permits/vafb_iha.pdf this is a candidate site for missile defense launches.

Google Maps
34-47-55  120-34-30 Peacekeeper Rail Garrison MAMS
Fred Epler explained that this large building was the MAMS (Missile Assembly and Maintenance Service) building for the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison test program.

Google Maps
34-50-00?  120-34-30? Peacekeeper
On a 1989 map this general area is labeled "Peacekeeper" but it's hard to say if they mean the cluster of pads in the upper left of this image, or Atlas F 576-D and 65-OSTF-2 in the lower right.

Google Maps
34-40-16  120-35-32 HSF
The two square areas are the Hypergolic Storage Facility (HSF). One area stores oxidizers such as nitrogen tetroxide, the other stores fuels such as hydrazine and aerozine-50. Not sure what the two structures southwest are but based on their proximity they may be related but then again they have no access other than going back out to the main road (Coast Road). A description of the facility and procedures were in a document available at http://vepdl.vandenberg.af.mil/30swpubs/30swi/23010300/23010400.pdf although it is no longer available, but try http://web.archive.org/web/20031129002614/vepdl.vandenberg.af.mil/30swpubs/30swi/23010400/23010400.pdf. With no more Titan launches to support, I wonder if the HSF will be maintained, or downsized to support only the remaining smaller needs for such fuels.

Google Maps
34-45-22  120-37-35
34-45-26  120-37-50
SLC 1E
astronautix.com details
SLC 1W
astronautix.com details
Two launch facilities, SLC1E and SLC1W. Thorad Agena D SLV-2G, and Thorad Agena D SLV-2H.

Google Maps
34-45-20  120-37-20  SCL2W
34-45-06  120-37-10  SCL2E
SLC 2E
astronautix.com details
SLC 2W
astronautix.com details
Originally built around 1958 for the Thor IRBM. Now called SLC 2, it is used for launching Boeing Delta 2 rockets. There are two pads, designated SLC 2W and SLC 2E. In the 1994 USGS photo, 2W is in the top center (note the long shadow cast by the tower) and 2E is to the southeast in the rather poor photo. A 1989 report labels the road to the north "To SLC-10 Area" which should be the Space and Missile Heritage Center. See http://spaceflightnow.com/delta/d289/011205slc2w.html for more information on SLC 2. Until 4/28/2012 the longitude was accidentally listed here as 102 degrees rather than 120 degrees.

Google Maps
34-38-25  120-35-23  SLC3E
34-38-39  120-35-36  SLC3W
SLC 3E
astronautix.com details
SLC 3W
astronautix.com details
Formerly used for launching Atlas II vehicles. There were two pads in use until recently, SLC 3W (upper left in photo) and SLC 3E (lower right). Also note the rectangular fallback area on the other side of Bear Creek Road. The USGS photo appears to have been taken while SLC 3E was being rebuilt for the Atlas II series. SLC 3W's tower was demolished January 22 2000 with no immediate plans for re-use except for speculation regarding the Atlas V under development (with a facility under construction at Cape Canaveral Complex 41). In December 2003, after the last Atlas II launch, work started to alter 3E for launching the Atlas V. The first Atlas V launch from Vandenberg occured on March 13, 2008.

In May 2005, SLC 3W was to be used by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX, http://www.spacex.com). See:

However, according to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/permits/vafb_iha.pdf in 2008 it was anticipated that SpaceX will use SLC-4E instead.

Google Maps
34-37-56  120-36-39  SLC4E
34-38-00  120-36-56  SLC4W
SLC 4E
astronautix.com details
SLC 4W
astronautix.com details
SLC 4 launched the Titan vehicle. Two pads, SLC 4E and SLC 4W. SLC 4W was the pad used for all 13 Titan II launches using refurbished ICBMs, with a perfect launch record. The last Titan II was launched October 18 2003. The pad will be safed and abandoned in place. See http://www.spaceflightnow.com/titan/g9/031018launch.html and http://www.spaceflightnow.com/titan/g9/031019slc4west.html. Those articles include some wonderful photos of the last Titan II launch. SLC 4E was used for the Titan 4 through October 2005 and will also be safed and abandoned. According to the second article referenced above, both pads will have their towers dismantled in 2007. In 2008 it was speculated that SpaceX will use SLC 4E according to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/permits/vafb_iha.pdf

Google Maps
34-36-31  120-37-34 SLC 5
astronautix.com details
Launched the Scout rocket. See http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/scout.htm. Parts of the complex will be dismantled, according to an article released by the Air Force April 27, 2009, and published at http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0904/27slc5.

Google Maps
34-34-54  120-37-40 SLC 6
astronautix.com details
SLC 6 was originally built between 1966 and 1969 for Gemini-B flights which were canceled. Then it was upgraded between 1979 and 1989 for Space Shuttle launches, canceled in part due to the Challenger accident. It was also considered for a second Titan launch facility but this was dropped in 1991. Between 1995 and 1999 it supported Athena launch vehicles. It has since been refurbished yet again and is now used for Boeing's Delta IV rocket, for commercial and military payloads going into polar orbits. See also http://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/gallery/images/space/delta_iv/d4_slc6_01.htm and http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0401/18delta4slc6/.
?  ? SLC 7
SLC 7 may or may not actually exist. SLC 8 does exist, which suggests an SLC 7, or at least the number was set aside for plans which never materialized. At http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/facility/titan_f.htm it is stated that SLC 7 was under consideration as a second Titan launch facility beginning in 1989. An article at http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=536 (and other articles) discuss Minotaur launches from a location called SLC 7 in early 2000, describing SLC 7 as newly-constructed. I am getting the impression that somehow SLC 8 was accidentally called SLC 7, and there is not an SLC 7.

Google Maps
34-34-34  120-38-02 SLC 8
astronautix.com details
I only discovered SLC 8 existed after reading an article on a Minotaur Launch, at http://spaceflightnow.com/minotaur/xss11. Looking at the photographs, especially the relationship between the large rectangular pond, the Delta assembly building, and the water tower, my best guess is that SLC 8 is at this location. The 1994 USGS photo appears to predate preparations to turn this into a small launch site. The facilities are operated by Spaceport Systems International, and their web site http://www.calspace.com/ includes some good discussions and photographs. A large (73 page) document on the facility is at http://www.calspace.com/SSI/Documents_files/SLC-8%20Facility%20Handbook%202009-03-12%20Approved.pdf though the file appears damaged, it is claimed to be 234 pages.
34-34-xx  120-38-xx SLC 9
I don't know, is there an SLC 9? If there's a 10 there should be a 9.

Google Maps
34-45-51  120-37-22 (Museum)
34-45-49  120-37-29 (SLC10W)
34-45-45  120-37-17 (SLC10E)
SLC 10
old astronautix.com details
SLC10E
astronautix.com details
SLC10W
astronautix.com details
SLC 10 is described at http://www.vandenberg.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=4627 as being the Space and Missile Heritage Center, and is Vandenberg's only National Historic Landmark. Apparently it was a very early launch complex and predates the current SLC (Space Launch Complex) numbering, and was later designated SLC 10 when the museum (Heritage Center) was created. From about 1959 to 1961, SLC-10W was known as 75-2-6 (Complex 75-2, Pad 6), and SLC-10E was known as 75-2-7 (Complex 75-2, Pad 7). From 1961 to 1962, SLC-10E was known as LE-7 (Launch Emplacement 7), see http://www.astronautix.com/sites/vanrgle7.htm which is gone, try http://web.archive.org/web/20080618051840/http://www.astronautix.com/sites/vanrgle7.htm. From 1965 to 1967, SLC-10W was known as 4300B6 (Complex 4300-B6), see http://www.astronautix.com/sites/vang4300.htm which is gone, try http://web.archive.org/web/20080618051536/http://www.astronautix.com/sites/vang4300.htm (there was a second pad, 4300C, but it appears not to have been what is now called SLC-10E). During 1967, SLC-10W was known as LE-6 (Launch Emplacement 6), see http://www.astronautix.com/sites/vanrgle6.htm which is gone, try http://web.archive.org/web/20080618051835/http://www.astronautix.com/sites/vanrgle6.htm. It is also possible that as names and missions changed, the precise locations used for launches moved around a bit. In the USGS photo the museum is about dead center, the white square building with another building immediately west. SLC 10 was used for launching the Thor and Blue Scout Junior, with the last launch occuring on July 14, 1980 from SLC-10W. SLC-10W is being preserved while SLC-10E is deteriorating. http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/aviation/spa.htm is another description of SLC 10.

Google Maps
34-44-50  120-36-25 Spin Test Facility
I'm told this is the Spin Test Facility (building 1610), used for testing spacecraft balance.