A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket is scheduled to launch a National Reconnaissance Service mission on Sept. 24 from Space Launch Complex 6 at Space Force Station Vandenberg, California.
This will be Delta 4’s final launch from the West Coast. ULA has a contract to launch two more missions on the Delta 4 Heavy in 2023 and 2024, but it will fly from Cape Canaveral, Florida, after which the vehicle will be retired.
The launch of NROL-91 marks the end of an era, Colonel. Chad Davis, director of the NRO’s Space Launch Office, told reporters on Sept. 22. “I think bittersweet is the right word.”
After completing the NROL-91 mission, ULA will begin dismantling the launch pad known as Space Launch Complex-6. The company’s future vehicle, Vulcan His Centaur, will launch from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Facility 3, where ULA currently flies its Atlas 5 rockets.
Space Launch Delta 30 is a Space Force unit operating the Vandenberg series.
During a phone conversation with a reporter, Col. Bryan Titus, deputy commander of Space Launch Delta 30 in Vandenberg, said range officials are actively talking to the launchers to find a new tenant for SLC-6.
“I’m sure it will be used,” Titus said of SLC-6. “He declined to nominate a potential tenant.
Most of today’s launches at Vandenberg are handled by SpaceX, which leases Space Launch Complex-4 for launches and booster landings. Titus mentioned SLC-6’s tumultuous past. Originally built in the 1960s to launch the Air Force’s unflighted manned orbital laboratory, it was repurposed in the 1980s as a dedicated launch and landing site for military Space Shuttle He missions. After the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, the Air Force settled on the West Coast without any shuttle launches. The site was reopened for several Lockheed Martin Athena launches in the 1990s and eventually handed over to the Delta 4 program.
The SLC-6 runway was used to land the Air Force’s X-37B reusable spaceplane. Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman have considered reaching an agreement with ULA to use SLC-6 to launch national security missions if selected for the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 contract. It is reported. However, both were kicked out by ULA and SpaceX in August 2020. Pad had “a lot of lives,” Titus said. “I think everyone in Vandenberg has a warm affection for this place. There are many other launch service providers you can find. There is a lot of infrastructure there.”
Vice President of Government and Commercial Programs at ULA, Gary Wentz, stated that the business is getting ready for the final West Coast launch of Atlas 5 from SLC-3 scheduled for November 1. The polar-orbiting weather satellite in question will be the Joint Polar Satellite System 2, which was created by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. After that mission is finished, SLC-3 will receive new hardware in order to get ready for Vulcan, which is expected to begin flying in 2023.
According to him, ULA did not believe the West Coast needed to retain two launch sites. SLC-3 was ideal for us to use from a commercial standpoint since the Atlas and Vulcan systems shared a lot of similarities.
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