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2nd SLS initiates Small Spacelift Spaceport

3D illustration of Space Launch Complex-8 in its current configuration at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (Contributed graphic)

3D illustration of Space Launch Complex-8 in its current configuration at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (Contributed graphic)


On Aug. 1, 2019, the 30th Space Wing returned control of Space Launch Complex-8 to the government, initiating the foundational step toward the 2nd Space Launch Squadron developing a Small Spacelift Spaceport at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

“We’re taking an innovative approach to support small lift operations,” said Lt. Col. Chatman, 2 SLS commander. “By transitioning SLC-8 off of a 25-year lease, we can now posture it to be the Western Range Small Spacelift Spaceport in an effort to maximize assured access to space.”

The push for this spaceport began in response to an Air Force Space Command vision of creating the Range of the Future in part by fostering commercial space launch partnerships in order to enhance the full spectrum of domestic launch capabilities and maintain space superiority.

According to 2nd Lt. Maggie Borngesser, 2nd SLS chief of facilities, the 2nd SLS played a key part in that vision by cultivating relations with industry and facilitating commercial space launch providers throughout the licensing process.

“The licensing process for Space Launch Complex-8 took about a year,” said Borngesser. “The previous lease of SLC-8 was set to expire in 2020, but the Wing decided to negotiate an early termination and agree to a new licensing agreement, which returned SLC-8 to government ownership. It has been a 30th SW team effort throughout this process.”

With the license in hand, the 2nd SLS is now focused on enhancing the availability and upgrading the technology at the launch pad. These improvements are designed to facilitate new space launch concepts from multiple providers. The goal is to offer emerging players in the small lift market access to essential services, enabling them to focus on key technology development rather than basic infrastructure. Borngesser and her team look forward to shaping the Range of the Future.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but the 2nd SLS Facilities Team is excited to be part of writing history on the Western Range and establishing the first milestone in what a future Spaceport at Vandenberg Air Force Base will look like.”