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Old 12-15-2016, 02:22 PM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is online now
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Manor Farm
Posts: 17,244
There are two commercial space launch facilities at Vandenberg AFB (formerly known as Sudden Ranch for aerospace history buffs and Arrested Development fans) leased to commerical launch services providers are SLC-4 (with two seperate pads, SLC-4W and SLC-4E) operated by SpaceX for Falcon 9 launches, and SLC-8 operated by Space Services, Incorporated (SSI) which is used for US Air Force Minotaur I and IV/V (Minuteman- and Peacekeeper-based launch vehicles) and provisionally for commercial Athena (Castor 120 and Castor 30) vehicles. SpaceX is unlikely to make their sites available for other launch providers, and SSI would have to make modifications to support anything other than Minotaur and Athena. However, the bigger practical issue is that it is not possible to fly prograde trajectories from Vandenberg without overflying the continental United States, which would not render acceptable Expectation of Casualty (EC) estimations for FAA commerical flight certification. The only permissible launch trajectories from VAFB are polar and retrograde orbits, and even those can be restricted because of overflight situations.

Setting aside trajectory issues, the federal government could deny FAA commerical flight license for a launch from any US facility and there is no legal way for a California entity or government agency to legally launch. The US Air Force, which controls the sites could deny specific launches for any number of manufactured safety or logistical reasons. And the costs of developing, launching, and maintaining a NOAA-grade Earth or space weather observation system that is intended to operate for 10 to 20 years in MEO or upper LEO is in no way comparable to smaller CubeSat launch intended to operate in lower LEO for just a couple of years. A CubeSat or similar smallsat can be developed for a few million dollars and launched in a ride share arrangement or deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) for a modest manifest cost and low intergration costs; a dedicated Earth surveillance satellite intended for high resolution imaging or high fidelity environment measurements starts at a development cost of arond $100M and goes on up depending on capability, and required a dedicated launch vehicle and higher intergration costs including health and status monitoring. And we'd need more than one or even a few satellites to replace the current Earth surveillance capabilities; we'd need at least three separate systems of satellites to maintain the current capabilities for short term weather and long term climate observations, notwithstanding space weather and solar surveillance.

Even if a California-based entity should decide to launch from an international site using a foreign launch provider, there are ITAR and other trade restrictions which the federal government could essentially arbitrarily impose to restrict or delay the launch. So, if the federal government wanted to be obstructive it could be difficult to impossible for the state of California or a California-based commercial entity to effectively launch a satellite, and of course USSPACECOM could refused to provide JSpOC tracking support, which means that the operator would have to provide their own tracking services. Depending on the orbit this could possibly be done via GPS albeit to a reduced degree of precision compared to fixed ground tracking stations.

Governor Brown clearly doesn't understand either the cost or logistical considerations involved in California alone trying to maintain an Earth surveillance system, and it would probably make sense to 'team' with ESA or JAXA to provide both additional funding and technical capability as well as international launch locations; JAXA in particular has a number of excellent sites for launching to a variety of orbital azimuths, as well the technical capabilities for space vehicle development and integration, as well as domestically produced launch vehicles.