SpaceX earned approval from the U.S. Space Force to launch rockets from the Vandenberg Space Force Base Space Launch Complex-6 (SLC-6) in California. Space Launch Delta 30 Commander Colonel Rob Long signed a statement of support on April 21, granting SpaceX permission to lease SLC-6 for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy missions. “This is an exciting time for Vandenberg Space Force Base, our nation's premier West Coast launch site for military, civil and commercial space operations,” said Col. Rob Long, “This agreement will add to the rich history of SLC-6 and builds on the already strong partnership with SpaceX.”
Previously, the launchpad at SLC-6 supported United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Delta IV rocket. The launch complex has remained vacant since the final Delta IV Heavy launch from the West Coast on Sept. 24, 2022. “The decision is the result of SLD 30's launch pad allocation strategy, which is a process to evaluate the suitability of various launch sites for different types of rockets and payloads,” said U.S. Space Force representatives. “The process is critical to ensuring that launches are safe, and that the selected launch site can accommodate the unique requirements of each mission. This was the first round of launch pad allocations, and additional rounds of allocations will occur in the future after further operational analysis,” they stated in a press release this week.
SLC-6 will be SpaceX’s fifth launch site in the United States. The company launches Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy missions from the Vandenberg Space Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E), NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex-39A, as well as the Cape Canaveral Space Force’s Space Launch Complex-40 in Florida. SpaceX also operates the Starbase launch site in South Texas where it is developing Starship.
Adding another launch site at California’s SLC-6 will enable SpaceX to achieve a record-breaking launch manifest this year. SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell shared in February that the company aims to launch 100 Falcon 9 missions this year. Every year SpaceX has worked to nearly double what it launched the year prior. In 2020 it launched 26 Falcon 9 missions, then it performed 31 missions in 2021, followed by 61 rocket flights in 2022. Reusing the Falcon 9 rockets’ first-stage is what enables the company to increase its pace of spaceflight in a cost-effective manner. To date, SpaceX has launched 224 missions, landed orbital-class rockets 186 times, and reused recovered rockets 158 times. This level of reusability is unprecedented, a truly historic innovation in the space industry.
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Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.