SpaceX wants to land rockets at Vandenberg AFB

Christopher Davidson
July 10, 2018

As for the Vandenberg Air Force Base, SpaceX launched a few rockets to place satellites on the Earth's orbit. This means that SpaceX plans to launch the Falcon 9 from Vandenberg and later land the rocket on the ground at the same facility - as opposed to performing a water landing on a drone ship. The options will depend on how much fuel the rocket uses to land. The request is being made to the FCC because the operation would require communication transmission from an antenna at the landing site to the rocket after landing.

The application does not list a specific mission for SpaceX's planned rocket landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, but the document posted on the FCC's website covers a period from September 5 through March 5. The private space company has recently applied for a special temporary authority (STA) to land a Falcon 9 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, reports The Verge.

After launching the rocked from the facility, it is supposed to land on the West Coast, the first one conducted by SpaceX.

The application, filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on July 4, requests a license for an "experimental launch vehicle first-stage recovery operation".

But SpaceX has not tried a rocket landing at Vandenberg yet. The Federal Aviation Administration studied to see if landing Falcon 9 rockets would negatively impact the environment, and they found out that there is no big threat. However, the company's other space complex is in Southern California, at Vandenberg AFB. SLC-4 West was last used for Titan 2 rocket launches in 2003. However, the company has yet to receive clearance for a landing at the site.

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In preparation for what would be the first Falcon 9 ground landing in California, SpaceX has already built a landing zone at Vandenberg, fitted with a circular concrete landing pad similar to the ones at Cape Canaveral.

Onshore rocket landings are less expensive for SpaceX, and they save time for engineers inspecting and refurbishing the boosters for future missions. An FCC license is required for both rocket launches and landings, and the hopefully upcoming landing.

Until now, SpaceX has done 14 drone ship landings and 11 ground-based landings.

And Canada's Radarsat Constellation Mission, a collection of three radar imaging satellites, is scheduled for launch on a single Falcon 9 rocket from California no earlier than November.

The last of eight SpaceX launches for Iridium's new-generation communications network is also expected from Vandenberg this fall, along with a rideshare mission sponsored by Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries carrying almost 50 small satellites from numerous US and worldwide customers.

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