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Base considers disassembling historical launch complex
Posted: April 27, 2009

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- Vandenberg is currently undergoing the planning stages of removing and disassembling pieces from one of its historical launch pads, Space Launch Complex-5.

The reason behind modifying the vacant complex came about when Vandenberg began receiving numerous requests from different agencies, programs and personnel around the globe for unused SLC-5 parts.

"As an architectural historian, I would like to preserve as much of SLC-5 as I can," said James Carucci, a 30th Civil Engineer Squadron architectural historian. "As it turns out though, there will be some benefits to this project. It will increase the amount of space between the launch pads on South Base, support Vandenberg's demolition programs and allow the base to give reusable equipment to someone who will use it. The Air Force and the Department of Defense will inevitably save money from this future project."

SLC-5 has left its mark on Vandenberg as well as in the history of space exploration.

In August 1961, the United States Navy received a contract for the construction of what is now known as SLC-5.

"SLC-5 was originally called Point Arguello Launch Complex before the space mission of the Navy and Air Force was consolidated in the latter part of the 1960's," said Mr. Carucci. "SLC-5 was originally built to accommodate NASA's Scout booster launches, which is historically important because it was the first solid-fueled rocket to orbit a satellite."

NASA's Scout booster was ahead of its time. It was capable of launching space probes, reentry payloads and satellites into a wider range of strategic orbital placing than any other booster of its time. The Scout booster gave way to valuable information concerning navigation, astronomy, communications, meteorology, geodesy, meteoroids, reentry materials, biology, and Earth and atmospheric sensing.

One piece of equipment Vandenberg plans to preserve from SLC-5 is its erector launcher, which is the mechanism used to raise and position the Scout booster. This piece of equipment received many requests from outside agencies for reuse, said Mr. Carucci.

Any changes made to SLC-5 will be documented in detail to prevent knowledge lost about the historic site.

"When a historic facility is given up or damaged a Historical American Engineering Record needs to be created," said Mr. Carucci. "The HAER is a written document with all of the plans and history of the facility. If SLC-5 is disassembled, a HAER will be written to document for future reference one of the properties from the Cold War era."

Documents like SLC-5's HAER are a visible product of Vandenberg's historic attributes.