Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 4

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Space Launch Complex 4
Final Titan IV launch.jpg
Final Titan IV launch from SLC-4E
Launch site Vandenberg AFB
Location 34.632706°N
Short name SLC-4
Operator US Air Force
SpaceX (4E from 2011)
Total launches 162
Launch pad(s) 2
Minimum / maximum
orbital inclination
51° – 145°
SLC-4W (PALC-2-3) launch history
Status Inactive
Launches 93
First launch 12 July 1963
Atlas-Agena D / OPS-1467
Last launch 18 October 2003
Titan 23G / USA-172
Associated rockets Atlas LV-3 Agena-D
Atlas SLV-3 Agena-D
Titan IIIB
Titan 23G
SLC-4E (PALC-2-4) launch history
Status Active
Launches 69
First launch 14 August 1964
Atlas-Agena D / OPS 3802
Last launch 29 September 2013
Falcon 9 v1.1 / CASSIOPE
Associated rockets Atlas LV-3 Agena-D
Atlas SLV-3 Agena-D
Titan IIID
Titan 34D
Titan IV
Falcon 9
Falcon Heavy (future)

Space Launch Complex 4 (SLC-4) is a launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base with two pads, both of which are used by SpaceX for Falcon 9 launch operations.

The complex was previously used by Atlas and Titan rockets between 1963 and 2005. It consisted of two launch pads, SLC-4W and SLC-4E, which were formerly designated PALC2-3 and PALC2-4 respectively. Both pads were built for use by Atlas-Agena rockets, but were later rebuilt to handle Titan rockets. The designation SLC-4 was applied at the time of the conversion to launch Titans.[1][when?]

Both pads at Space Launch Complex 4 are currently leased by SpaceX. SLC-4E is leased as a launch site for the Falcon 9 rocket, which first flew from Vandenberg on 29 September 2013,[2] following a 24-month refurbishment program which had started in early 2011.[3][4] SpaceX began a five-year lease of Launch Complex 4W in February 2015 in order to use that area to bring back VTVL Return-To-Launch-Site (RTLS) first-stage boosters of the reusable Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles at a landing pad



A Titan 23G on SLC-4W


The first launch to use what is now SLC-4 occurred on 12 July 1963, when an Atlas LV-3 Agena-D launched the first KH-7 Gambit reconnaissance satellite, from PALC2-3. Twelve Atlas-Agenas launches were conducted from PALC2-3, with the last occurring on 12 March 1965.

Titan IIIB[edit]

Following this, it was rebuilt as SLC-4W, a Titan launch complex. The first Titan launch from SLC-4W was a Titan IIIB, on 29 July 1966. All 70 Titan IIIB launches occurred from SLC-4W, with the last on 12 February 1987.

Titan 23G[edit]

After the retirement of the Titan IIIB, it became a Titan 23G launch site, and twelve Titan II launches, using the 23G orbital configuration, were conducted between 5 September 1988 and 18 October 2003. Following the retirement of the Titan 23G, SLC-4W was deactivated. 93 rockets were launched from SLC-4W.

SLC-4W was the site of the launch of Clementine, the only spacecraft to be launched from Vandenberg to the Moon, which was launched by a Titan 23G on 25 January 1994.[citation needed]

After 2015: SpaceX landing pad[edit]

Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy landing pad[edit]

SpaceX signed a five-year lease of Launch Complex 4W in February 2015, in order to use the area to land reusable launch vehicles at the pad. The location will be used for vertical landing of Return-To-Launch-Site (RTLS) first-stage boosters of the Reusable Falcon 9 (F9R) and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles that are launched from SpaceX-leased launch pads at the adjacent SLC 4E launch pad.[5]

This novel use of SLC 4W had initially surfaced in July 2014 when published that SpaceX was considering leasing SLC-4W for use as a RTLS vertical-landing facility for reusable first-stage boosters of the F9R and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles that would be launched from SLC-4E.[6]

Principal structures on the pad were demolished in September 2014 as refurbishment began.[7]

SpaceX has also signed a lease for an east coast RTLS landing pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 13.[5]

Launch history[edit]

Date Launch Vehicle Payload
12 July 1963 Atlas LV-3 Agena-D KH-7 Gambit[which?]
6 September 1963 Atlas LV-3 Agena-D KH-7 Gambit[which?]
25 October 1963 Atlas LV-3 Agena-D KH-7 Gambit[which?]
18 December 1963 Atlas LV-3 Agena-D KH-7 Gambit[which?]
25 February 1964 Atlas LV-3 Agena-D KH-7 Gambit[which?]
11 March 1964 Atlas LV-3 Agena-D KH-7 Gambit[which?]
23 April 1964 Atlas LV-3 Agena-D KH-7 Gambit[which?]
19 May 1964 Atlas LV-3 Agena-D KH-7 Gambit[which?]
6 July 1964 Atlas LV-3 Agena-D KH-7 Gambit[which?] / P-11[which?]
23 October 1964 Atlas LV-3 Agena-D KH-7 Gambit[which?] / P-11[which?]
23 January 1965 Atlas SLV-3 Agena-D KH-7 Gambit[which?]
12 March 1965 Atlas SLV-3 Agena-D KH-7 Gambit[which?]
29 September 2013 SpaceX Falcon_9_v1.1 CASSIOPE



The first launch from PALC2-4 occurred on 14 August 1964, when a KH-7 satellite was launched by an Atlas-Agena D. After 27 Atlas-Agena launches, the last of which was on 4 June 1967, the complex was deactivated.[citation needed]

Titan IIID[edit]

Titan IIID launch from SLC-4E

During 1971 the complex was reactivated and refurbished for use by the Martin Marietta Titan III launch vehicles. The Titan IIID made its maiden flight from SLC-4E on 15 June 1971, launching the first KH-9 Hexagon satellite.[8] The first KH-11 Kennan satellite was launched from the complex on 19 December 1976.[9] All 22 Titan IIIDs were launched from SLC-4E, with the last occurring on 17 November 1982.

Titan 34D[edit]

The complex was then refurbished to accommodate the Martin Marietta Titan 34D. Seven Titan 34Ds were launched between 20 June 1983, and 6 November 1988.[citation needed] On 18 April 1986, a Titan 34D exploded less than nine seconds after launch, showering debris over the launch pad.[10]

Titan IV[edit]

The last type to use the complex was the Titan IV, starting on 8 March 1991, with the launch of Lacrosse 2. On 19 October 2005, the last flight of a Titan rocket occurred, when a Titan IVB was launched from SLC-4E, with an Improved Crystal satellite. Following this launch, the complex was deactivated, having been used for 68 launches.[citation needed]


SpaceX refurbished SLC–4E for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches,[2][11] in a 24-month process that began in early 2011.[3] The draft environmental impact assessment with a finding of "no significant impact" was published in February 2011.[3] Demolition began on the pad's fixed and mobile service towers in summer 2011.[4]

By late 2012, SpaceX continued to anticipate that the initial launch from the Vandenberg pad would be in 2013, but would be a Falcon 9 launch—actually, a heavily modified and much larger Falcon 9 v1.1.[12] As the pad was nearing completion in February 2013, the first Falcon 9 launch was scheduled for summer 2013,[13] but was launched on 29 September 2013, and was the maiden flight of the Falcon 9 v1.1 configuration, carrying Canada's CASSIOPE satellite.[14]


  1. ^ Air Force FOIA electronic reading room: List of launches from SLC-4 East and West
  2. ^ a b Simburg, Rand. "SpaceX Press Conference". Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c Scully, Janene (2011-02-05). "Report: Falcon plan OK for environment". Santa Maria Times (Santa Maria, California: Lee Enterprises). Retrieved 7 February 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "". SpaceX. 15 August 2011. Archived from the original on 15 August 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Clark, Stephen (17 February 2015). "SpaceX leases property for landing pads at Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  6. ^ Bergin, Chris (2014-07-28). "SpaceX Roadmap building on its rocket business revolution". NASAspaceflight. Retrieved 2014-07-28. At this point, we are highly confident of being able to land successfully on a floating launch pad or back at the launch site and refly the rocket with no required refurbishment 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Wade, Mark. "Titan". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  9. ^ "Titan 3D". Gunther's Space Page. Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "SpaceX announces launch date for FH". 
  12. ^ "SpaceX Gears Up for Launches at Vandenberg Air Force Base". Space News. 2012-11-12. Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  13. ^ "First look/SpaceX Launch Complex/Vandenberg AFB". 2013-02-11. Retrieved 2013-04-01. 
  14. ^, SpaceX Falcon 9 From Vandenberg AFB Near Perfect (accessed 5 August 2014)

Coordinates: 34°37′58″N 120°36′48″W / 34.632706°N 120.613393°W / 34.632706; -120.613393