Will the Shuttle ever launch from Vandenberg?

I remember years ago NASA talking about launching from Vandenberg AFB for polar orbit missions.

Why has the Shuttle never (AFAIK) never done this? Is it now forbidden to do so or something?

Apparently, the program there was mothballed in 1988 in the wake of the Challenger disaster. The runways built for the shuttle missions are now used for the airshows there.

They probably haven’t reversed that decision due to budget concerns.

Since then, there’s a new launch facility on Kodiak Island which is better suited to polar orbits, though it certainly doesn’t have a shuttle-sized pad or control room.

It is, I think, one of the four orbital launch sites in the U.S., next to Kennedy, Vandenberg, and some joint in Virginia.

This is assuming, of course, that the shuttles will be launched again, ever. :frowning:

You are well named, three. :slight_smile:

I believe that would be Wallops Island, Virginia I don’t think they could accomodate the Space Shuttle, but they claim to have a large restricted airspace available to launch in. They also say polar orbits require an in-flight azimuth correction.


NASA Shuttle Launch Information

My WAG is that the Vandenberg launch site was intended primarily for military flights. While earth science observations can benefit from polar flights, the most common use of polar orbits is reconnaisance.

The star-crossed history of SLC-6 can be read at http://www.fas.org/spp/military/program/launch/sts_slc-6.htm, among other places.

Just one example of the problems at SLC-6:

"Another outstanding problem was blast protection. SLC-6 was a surprisingly compact facility for a rocket as large as the Shuttle. At lift-off the launch control center is less than 1,200 feet from the pad, and the other facilities also are very close. It was long unclear what sorts of additional protection for these structures might be required to shield them from the intense acoustic, blast and thermal environment of a Shuttle lift-off. "

To address the thread title "Will the Shuttle ever launch from Vandenberg? " specificially, the answer is no.

The Shuttle launch facilities at Vandenberg were removed, re-used, mothballed post-Challenger.

With only three shuttles left and no likelihood of a fourth, all future Shuttle launches, if any, will take place at Cape Canaveral.

Now if we talk about the replacement for the Shuttle, maybe. :cool:

This from Encyclopedia Astronautica:

The article on the site (which hasn’t been updated since 1999) ends rather prophetically: