First Vandenberg Shuttle Launch Postponed
The first launch of the space shuttle from Vandenberg Air Force Base has been delayed until at least mid-July, 1986, because of a series of construction problems at the Central California base, the Air Force and the space agency announced Wednesday.
“There is no single major problem,” an Air Force source said. “It’s just that a lot of things have taken a lot longer than we had anticipated. Many, many factors compounded the overall problem.”
The Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had hoped to make the first flight out of Vandenberg in March, and even that date would have been far behind schedule. The $2.5-billion launch complex was originally scheduled for completion by October of this year.
A specific launch date will be picked after the first of the year, according to a joint announcement by the Air Force and NASA.
Hectic NASA Schedule
“There are no major problems at the Vandenberg site,” said Edward C. Aldridge, undersecretary of the Air Force. He said the added time will “allow for better preparation and evaluation” of testing systems and will permit more training of Vandenberg personnel.
The relaxed schedule also made it possible to fit the delayed launch more conveniently into the hectic schedule that NASA is trying to maintain at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spring months are loaded with important scientific missions, including one launch in May scheduled to coincide with the landing of another shuttle.
The first launch out of Vandenberg will put a manned vehicle into polar orbit for the first time. Although most missions out of Vandenberg will be classified, the Defense Department has announced that the first flight will carry six space physics experiments and an experimental aircraft detection system called Teal Ruby.
Because of the delay, the shuttle Discovery--which will be based permanently at Vandenberg--will be delivered to the base around March 1.