A Second Launch Site for the Shuttle? An Analysis of Needs for the Nation's Space Program

Gao ID: PSAD-78-57 August 4, 1978

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is constructing space shuttle facilities at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), the primary launch, landing, and orbiter refurbishment site which is scheduled to become operational in mid-1980. A second site, Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), will be funded by the Department of Defense (DOD) and is expected to become operational in June 1983 at a cost of about $1 billion.

The need for new facilities at VAFB is questionable. Proposed facilities at VAFB have been justified primarily on the basis that northerly launches are not permissible from KSC due to the danger of flying over land. DOD officials contended that KSC shuttle launches would not have the capability to handle certain DOD pay loads, and the Department of State has expressed a concern about the possibility of adverse Soviet reaction to northerly launches from KSC. These justifications seem to be unwarranted since: (1) land overflight would not be a serious problem with the type of vehicle involved, and the critical phase of the launch would be over ocean; (2) defense and civil missions projected for the 1980's are feasible from KSC; and (3) KSC delivery capability can be increased to meet future DOD requirements. Congressional inquiry may be needed to determine the seriousness of State's concern. NASA and DOD believe that five orbiters are needed with an investment cost per orbiter of about $600 million to $850 million. If an orbiter fleet of this magnitude were developed, funding might not be available for further scientific pay loads. Three orbiters could accommodate a considerable increase in space activity during the next decade and a fourth orbiter could provide for fleet attrition.


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