SpaceX to take over Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg Space Force Base

After reaching an agreement with Space Launch Delta 30, SpaceX will take over the lease of Space Launch Complex 6 (SLC-6). SLC-6 was formerly used by United Launch Alliance to launch the Delta IV rocket family from the West Coast, primarily for the National Reconnaissance Office.

SLC-6 was initially built in 1966 to host the Titan III launch vehicle to launch the Manned Orbital Laboratory. The Manned Orbital Laboratory was subsequently canceled in 1969 before any launches occurred, and work was paused. It wasn’t until 1979 that work continued following SLC-6 being selected as one of the sites to host Space Shuttle launches for the U.S. Air Force. Construction on the pad for future Space Shuttle missions finished in 1986. However, the tragic accident that was the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster drastically changed the outlook for the Space Shuttle program and resulted in the cancellation of Space Shuttle launches from SLC-6.

Space Shuttle Enterprise at SLC-6 (U.S. Air Force)

The launch complex went on to host various launches during the 1990s before it was retrofitted to host the Delta IV family of rockets. The Delta IV went on to successfully fly ten times from 2006 to 2022, five of which were the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle. The last Delta IV Heavy launch from SLC-6 occurred in September 2022.

In July 2011, SpaceX announced its intention to launch both the Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 rockets from Vandenberg Space Force Base. Initially, the company launched only the Falcon 9 from Vandenberg, but it will soon begin retrofitting SLC-6 to support both the Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 launch vehicles for future missions. This will provide yet another launch site for SpaceX to help increase its incredible launch cadence.

2011 SpaceX Ground Breaking at Vandenberg Space Force Base (U.S. Air Force)

It is still uncertain if SpaceX will build another Starship launch pad at SLC-6 similar to how they have done at LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. With Polar Orbit launches being an option from the East Coast now, they may only elect to focus on Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 from SLC-6 for now. What is certain is that this will provide yet another launch site for SpaceX to continue to increase its impressive launch cadence, and it will be a valuable launch site for SpaceX to launch National Security launches for the Department of Defense and the National Reconnaissance Office.

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