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Fewer launches expected at Vandenberg Air Force Base this year

Posted at 6:32 PM, Mar 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-08 14:06:26-05

In front of a room full of local city and state officials Thursday afternoon, Colonel Michael Hough of Vandenberg Air Force Base’s 30th Space Wing presented the Vandenberg State of Affairs.

Hough says 2018 was a busy year of launches for them, with 13 successful launches and two that had to be pushed back.

They launched over $5.5 billion in assets, including NASA’s InSight lander, four Minutemen III test missiles, the first West Coast rocket booster on-land landing, and the last fight of the Delta II.

In 2019, the satellite launches into space will have a “lull” as private companies come on board. Hough says the government is getting out of the launch business and will hire companies like Space X, ULA, Omega, Relativity, and Firefly to help support new technologies.

So far, one satellite launch is on the manifest for this year, along with a handful of Minuteman launches. We will also see another West Coast landing of a rocket booster.

Hough says working with commercial companies is more demanding for staff on the base, forcing them to look at how they do business. Crews will have to become faster and more innovative to try to keep up with the demand and keeping them looking “attractive” to companies looking to work in the space field.

The 30th Space Wing is in communication with Blue Origin, a space exploration company, to find a new launch pad for them. Hough says Blue Origin is building a large rocket that needs a lot of space, but there is trouble accommodating it on VAFB property as much of the acreage is mountainous and not flat.

Back on Earth, Hough says the Air Force is working on ways to better accommodate military spouses with licensed professions, such as education, medicine, law, and accounting. He believes the troubles with getting re-accredited in different states is causing families to end their military service earlier. Vandenberg is now eyeing legislation passed in Utah in 2018 that re-regulated code changes to make it easier on military spouses. They are hoping to gain support for similar legislation being passed in California and plan to make a pitch to the California Governor’s Council.

During a question and answer session, one of the first questions asked was about the Space Force. Hough says he still is uncertain about “what is coming down the pipe” on that but says he does know a “standup” of a space command will be built on base, whose focus will be entirely on space.

Another question asked was about the housing conditions on base. A recent report from other military bases showed housing on bases was causing airmen to believe their health and safety was at risk. Hough was ordered to hand out a survey to the 950 occupied homes on base to see how people here viewed their housing.

Some of the surveys returned reported infestations from pests and mold and mildew concerns. Hough says he had to follow-up with those who reported being unhappy with their living conditions. He says they found that the pest concerns were often a large number of ants after rains and mold and mildew in bathroom areas.

While many of the homes on base are owned by the airmen themselves, the properties are maintained by a private company. Hough says they found the maintenance company needed to get better with their consistency of service and that there is not a health and safety concern on base.

At the end of the question and answer period, Hough was given a Space Force t-shirt as a gag gift from others on base. He says he’s excited for what the future holds as they continue to forge relationships with outside companies, looking to revolutionize space technologies.