Vandenberg AFB Launch Complex 576
Launch Complex 576, also known as Area 576, is a group of rocket launch pads at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The pads at the complex were used from 1959 until 1971 to launch SM-65 Atlas missiles. The site was also known as Complex ABRES. Pads in Area 576 include 576-A-1,2,3, 576-B-1,2,3, 576-C, 576-D, 576-E, OSTF-1 and OSTF-2.
The first operational launch of an Atlas missile by the Strategic Air Command was conducted from 576-A-2 by the 576th Strategic Missile Squadron on September 9, 1959. It impacted 4,480 nautical miles (8,300 km) away, near Wake Island.
The first Atlas F launch at Vandenberg took place from 576-E on August 1, 1962. Orbital Sciences Corporation now launches their Taurus rockets from 576-E. 576-E is also a candidate site for launches of Kinetic Energy Interceptor boosters. The USAF and Missile Defense Agency anticipate a minimum of three KEI launches per year from 2009 to at least 2012.
The first pad in the complex, 576-A2, hosted the inaugural Atlas launch from the West Coast when Missile 12D flew a successful 1100 mile (1800 km) arc across the Pacific Ocean) on September 9, 1959. On March 5, 1960, Atlas 19D exploded on 576-A2 while undergoing a fuel-loading exercise. The pad was severely damaged, but since 576-A3 had come online two months earlier, it was decided that one pad was adequate for the Atlas D launching schedule at VAFB and thus 576-A2 was not rebuilt. The site lay empty until 1965 when it was converted for the Atlas F and hosted 13 ABRES and OV-1 launches.
The second pad in the complex, 576-A3, began operation in 1960. It hosted reentry vehicle and Nike-Zeus target tests on the Atlas D and F through 1974.
Pad 576-A1 began operation in 1962 when it hosted Atlas D reentry vehicle and Nike-Zeus target tests. In 1967, the pad was converted for the Atlas F and hosted more reentry vehicle tests until being decommissioned in 1974. One space launch took place from 576-A1, the launch of RADSAT in 1972.
576-B's three pads began their lives as silos for Atlas ICBM tests. The facility was the source of some trouble in the beginning due to a construction error as one umbilical on the silos was installed incorrectly. After four failed launches from 576-B, it was discovered that the umbilical was releasing prematurely at liftoff when it still had live electrical current in it, which shorted out components in the missiles. Repairs were made during early 1961 and launches resumed that May.
576-B1 began operation in 1960 and hosted five missile tests until being converted to a proper launch pad in 1965, when it hosted Nike-Zeus and reentry vehicle tests. The pad was decommissioned in 1966.
576-B2 hosted Atlas D ICBM tests from 1960 to 1963, then was converted to a proper pad for Nike-Zeus and reentry vehicle tests. The pad was decommissioned in 1967.
576-B3 hosted Atlas D ICBM tests from 1960 to 1963, then was converted to a proper pad for reentry vehicle and OV-1 satellite launches. The pad was decommissioned in 1967.
Pad 576-C was only used for three Atlas E tests in 1963.
Pad 576-D was only used for two Atlas F tests in 1963-64.
Pad 576-E was used for four Atlas F tests in 1962-64. In the 1990s, the facility was revived for Taurus and Pegasus launches.
- "Vandenberg ABRES". Encyclopedia Astronautica.
- "VANDENBERG AFB - HOME OF THE 576th STRATEGIC MISSILE SQUADRON". SiloWorld.
- "Vandenberg 576A2". Encyclopedia Astronautica.
- "ATLAS F". SiloWorld.
- Jim Kirkpatrick. "Vandenberg Air Force Base".
- Federal Register /Vol. 73, No. 245 / Friday, December 19, 2008 / Proposed Rules, page 77579.
Media related to Vandenberg Air Force Base Launch Complex 576 at Wikimedia Commons