WASHINGTON – The U.S. Air Force is leasing a second launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to SpaceX, giving the company neighboring launch sites on the service’s western range.

Robin Jackson, chief of public affairs at Vandenberg, confirmed the lease of the Space Launch Complex-4 West (SLC-4W) site to SpaceNews in a Jan. 26 response to questions. Further details, including the date and duration of the lease, were not provided. Jackson referred additional questions about the use of the pad to SpaceX.

SpaceX spokesman John Taylor did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

SpaceX telegraphed its aspirations for SLC-4 by posting a forward-looking photo on Twitter in January 2012.

New sign at Vandenberg Air Force Base has gone up to mark the location where we will make history with Falcon Heavy. pic.twitter.com/WVwqy8TC

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 30, 2012

A YouTube video posted last September claims it shows a SpaceX crew demolishing launch infrastructure at the site to make way for a landing pad.

Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX currently operates two primary launch sites: one at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and one at Vandenberg.

SpaceX has launched its Falcon 9 rocket 13 times from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40 since 2010 and has a 14th mission on tap for Feb. 8, an Air Force-sponsored launch of NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite.

Last year, SpaceX signed a lease with NASA in 2014 to use Kennedy Space Center’s SLC-39A for Falcon Heavy as well as Falcon 9 launches of crewed Dragon missions to the International Space Station.

SpaceX broke ground in 2011 on Vandenberg’s SLC-4E and used it in September 2013 for the first — and so far only — time to launch Canada’s experimental Cassiope satellite. Vandenberg is used primarily for satellites needing to reach high inclination and polar orbits.

SLC-4W — like SLC-4E — was built in the 1960s for the early Atlas rockets and was modified in the 1970s for the military’s Titan family of rockets. The pad was last used in 2003 when the final Titan 2 launched a Defense Meteorological Satellite Program weather satellite.


Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.