I came across this 33-year-old article while searching for information on SLC-6. See the highlighted part:
Aviation Week & Space Technology
June 30, 1980
Vandenberg Shuttle Operations Delayed
BYLINE: By Craig Covault
SECTION: SPACE TECHNOLOGY; Pg. 59
DATELINE: Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
Space shuttle initial launch capability from Vandenberg AFB will be delayed from June, 1984, until at least the fall of 1984, Air Force officers here believe.
Slip in initial operational capability is caused by space shuttle first launch delays and a late start on shuttle launch pad construction here. Shuttle pad construction is just getting under way and in about a year 1,200 persons will be involved in building Vandenberg shuttle facilities.
Vandenberg initial operational capability date was December, 1983, but that was moved to June, 1984, in late May to bring scheduling more in line with shuttle readiness. Further slip to late 1984 is not on the official schedule, but engineers here believe eventual delay to that period is dictated by construction schedules coupled with shuttle readiness expectations.
First Defense Dept. space shuttle launch from Vandenberg has been planned for October, 1984, and an assessment is under way to determine how the delay in Vandenberg shuttle capability will affect this and other early shuttle missions planned for a Vandenberg launch.
Civilian space missions will be launched from Vandenberg into polar orbits on the space shuttle just as civilian payloads have been launched from here for years on expendable boosters.
First Vandenberg shuttle launches were to involve civilian payloads such as the Tiros N meteorological satellite, but the slip in launch site capability means a high-priority military payload could initiate shuttle flights from here. The first Defense mission probably would involve a digital imaging reconnaissance spacecraft that would be a modified version of the spacecraft now launched by Titan 3D boosters.
In the event of continuing delays in making the shuttle operational from both Vandenberg and the Kennedy Space Center, USAF is procuring hardware that will allow it to assemble seven backup Titan 3 launchers. These backup Titans could be used on planned satellite missions until about 1986 if the shuttle has not reached a satisfactory operational capability by the time the design decisions must be made on whether a satellite must be made compatible with a Titan or the shuttle.
It is likely USAF will begin procurement of long-lead items for additional backup Titans this fall in order to extend its backup capability into the late 1980s. Long lead procurements would involve the Aerojet engines for the Martin Marietta Titan 2 that is the core vehicle of a Titan 3 launcher.
Only a small number of additional Titans, possibly two, are being considered for near term action. USAF is most concerned about retaining a Titan manufacturing capability into the 1980s, long enough to assure itself the space shuttle will be a viable launcher by that time.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration's decision to move forward with a liquid propulsion boost module shuttle thrust augmentation capability, based on the Aerojet engines for Titan 2, also will help maintain an expendable launcher manufacturing capability even after the shuttle is a thoroughly proved launch vehicle.
Delays in the space shuttle program are beginning to have an effect on military satellite design milestones. Military satellite planners want to use the space shuttle for their spacecraft because of the much wider design latitude and increase in capability the shuttle payload bay permits.
A problem, however, is that payload designers cannot commit their spacecraft 100% to a shuttle design unless they know the shuttle will be available when they need to launch their satellites. This is because spacecraft designed for a shuttle launch can be shaped much differently than spacecraft launched on expendable boosters, and what would fit in a shuttle might not fit on top of an expendable launcher.
One spacecraft for which this is true is the USAF/Hughes satellite data system spacecraft. The SDS project is changing its design to a short and fat spacecraft shaped like a tuna can and resembling the Hughes Leasat spacecraft (AW&ST Feb. 4, cover). This allows the spacecraft to use the shuttle payload bay more efficiently.
In the face of shuttle vehicle uncertainties, USAF is trying to maintain the option of launching some programs on expendables for as long as possible.
Decisions on some programs, however, as to which way they go, must be made within about six months. Most critical near-term shuttle military payload involves a Kennedy Space Center-launched mission, not a Vandenberg flight. USAF is concerned that a needed heavy-lift shuttle performance be available from Kennedy by about April, 1983, when launch of an important new synchronous orbit satellite program is planned.
Delays Forcing Reassessment
The satellite project itself is suffering some delays that later could reduce the urgency for the lightweight orbiter No. 099 with higher performance main engines. Delays in the first shuttle launch also are forcing USAF to reexamine how it will handle space shuttle launch software here.
NASA earlier had planned to be done with orbital flight test and into operational shuttle flights by this time. This would have meant operational flight software would be available for both Kennedy and Vandenberg use in the launch processing system (LPS) facilities at both sites.
Since the shuttle now has been delayed, moving first flight much closer to the start of Vandenberg's shuttle flight operations, launch processing system officers here probably will not have fully operational software available to them when the first few shuttle missions are flown from Vandenberg.
This will mean Vandenberg's initial software capability will be more like that used early in the program at Kennedy and involve more manual checkout and launch activities than will be required once the operational software is verified fully.
Software also is an issue in the Boeing inertial upper stage (IUS) program, which has suffered both cost and technical difficulties of its own. USAF is still pressing toward a July, 1981, IUS capability with first flight on a Titan 34D. Since the IUS is a solid propellant rocket designed to be deployed from another orbiting vehicle, it has an avionics capability far in excess of any previous upper stage.
Prior to its ignition in orbit to carry its payload farther into space, the IUS must determine accurately its position over the earth and compute its attitude and trajectory. This is done so that when ignited, the IUS will be able to fly whatever trajectory is required to put it at a proper point in space at the moment its solid propellant is expended.
As a solid propellant rocket, it cannot make an early engine shutdown or extended burn to correct errors. It must fly a trajectory that will use the proper amount of energy applied to guidance inputs to reach propulsion depletion at a very specific orbital location.
To accomplish this with extensive redundancy requires complex software with a 65,000-word capability. Boeing has overall responsibility for the software and TRW is in charge of software coding.
The current IUS software situation is being assessed to make any adjustments necessary to enable a July, 1981, readiness date on the vehicle. It is possible the independent verification and analysis of IUS software to be performed by Martin Marietta will have to be started earlier than planned. Under this situation, less mature software would be available initially to Martin Marietta, but the verification could be done in time to achieve the desired July, 1981, capability.
Vandenberg's ability to launch space shuttle and the Air Force's ability to monitor adequately increasing military space activities are tied directly to facilities construction at Vandenberg and construction of the new Consolidated Space Operations Center. The favored location for the Consolidated Space Operations Center is near Peterson AFB, Colo., near the North American Air Defense Command's Cheyenne Mountain complex.
Operations Center Responsibilities
Construction of the facilities equates directly to the introduction of new USAF space capabilities. The space operations center will have two responsibilities:
* Control of the space shuttle during military missions.
* Control of military satellites deployed by the space shuttle.
Shuttle control will be like that to be provided by NASA Johnson Space Center for all civil missions and military missions until the USAF center is operational. USAF controllers have been given their own secure mission operations control room at Johnson to use until their new center can handle control of shuttle operations on military flights.
Control of military satellites will be like that now performed at the USAF Satellite Control Facility in Sunnyvale, Calif., using two major satellite control centers, and will enhance survivability in the event of natural disaster or attack.
The Air Force would like to have substantial operation capability at the new center by 1985. The Space Div. in Los Angeles is responsible for developing the facility and wants the Defense Dept. to determine by this summer just how much capability will be required by 1985 because construction schedules will have to be tight to achieve that goal.
USAF also needs to decide by this summer two other major questions:
* Integration -- Should the shuttle and satellite control operations be managed as separate or integrated operations?
* Hardware -- What type computer hardware should be procured?
Use of the type of equipment now at Johnson would enable an easy transition of existing software to the USAF center for shuttle operations. It also could create problems because much of the Johnson hardware is old. Newer hardware in the Air Force center could improve flexibility and facilitate growth more easily.
While Air Force center requirements are being firmed, heavy construction is getting under way here for Vandenberg's shuttle launch and recovery facilities.
Delays in construction that will force a slip in the Vandenberg initial operational capability resulted when bids from contractors came in about $30 million higher than USAF had budgeted (AW&ST Mar. 31, p. 64). As a result, the Air Force was forced to seek more than $60 million in budget reprograming from Congress to enable it to award contracts and get space shuttle construction under way.
USAF could have readvertised for the bids, but the service believed this would have cost substantially more in the long run and delayed launch pad construction even further.
As a result of the reprograming, the Air Force awarded about $110 million in initial contracts for launch pad and launch control center construction to two organizations in late April (AW&ST Apr. 28, p. 23).
By late 1981, Vandenburg space shuttle construction should peak with 1,200 workers on the effort. It encompasses several new facilities spread over a wide geographical area. Both operational and geographical differences have combined to make the Vandenburg shuttle facilities significantly different from those at the Kennedy Space Center, where first shuttle launch is planned by next March.
Two Main Areas
Vandenberg facilities are located in two areas separated by about 16 mi. Facilities at North Vandenberg will concentrate on recovery and processing of the orbiter between flights. Facilities at South Vandenberg are keyed to launch pad buildup of the orbiter, solid-rocket boosters, external tank and preparation of space shuttle payloads.
Typical orbiter flow through Vandenberg facilities will start with the spacecraft's landing at Vandenberg's existing runway on the north side of the base. The runway is being converted to a shuttle recovery facility identical to that already built adjacent to the vehicle assebly building at Kennedy.
During early shuttle missions, the orbiter will be towed directly from Vandenberg's runway to the large and complex orbiter maintenance and checkout facility. If shuttle launch rates in the later 1980s reach the forecast 20 million per year from Vandenberg, a facility for shuttle safing and deservicing will be built between the runway and the orbiter maintenance and checkout facility.
This safing facility would enable a two-orbiter checkout flow to occur at Vandenberg.
For early shuttle operations, only one orbiter can be handled here at a time. The orbiter maintenance facility has only one bay for orbiter support.
Construction of this major facility began in March. The building is somewhat similar to the Kennedy Space Center orbiter processing facility in which final tile application and testing is being performed on the Columbia. Kennedy's facility has two orbiter bays for checkout.
Vandenberg's orbiter maintenance and checkout facility has a second major work area separated from the orbiter bay by a blast wall, and payload safing and deservicing will be performed in this area.
Retrieval of digital imaging reconnaissance spacecraft for their refurbishment and reuse is a prime goal of Vandenberg AFB defense shuttle operations. Such spacecraft will be left in the orbiter until the shuttle reaches the orbiter maintenance and checkout facility at the end of a retrieval mission.
The spacecraft will be lifted from the orbiter and transferred to the spacecraft safing bay, where it will be prepared for shipment back to its prime contractor.
The only payload that will be placed in the shuttle orbiter payload bay while the orbiter is horizontal in this facility will be NASA Spacelab hardware. All other civil and military payloads will be loaded into the shuttle in its vertical position on the launch pad.
Other facilities at North Vandenberg will house the shuttle operations headquarters and major elements of the shuttle launch processing system (LPS).
The launch processing system used at Vandenberg is identical to that at the Kennedy Space Center. At Vandenberg, the system's central data subsystem and one set of the checkout control and monitor subsystem hardware is positioned at north base.
The central data subsystem on north base will support both the shuttle checkout on north base and shuttle launch activities on south base. The checkout control and monitor hardware on north base will be devoted only to shuttle checkout. Another set of the hardware positioned in the blockhouse adjacent to the launch pad will handle launch operations functions.
While the orbiter is in turnaround facility, the solid-rocket boosters dropped into the Pacific during the vehicle's previous launch will be towed to Port Hueneme, a Navy facility 90 mi. south of Vandenberg.
There the solids will be removed from the water and undergo an initial cleaning. They will then be broken down for rail shipment to Thiokol. The contractor will refurbish and reload the solids and ship them by rail back to Vandenberg, where they will be taken to another facility.
Solid-rocket motors ready for reflight will be transported to a processing facility near the shuttle launch pad. This facility now is used for storage and checkout of Titan 3 solid rocket boosters. A new facility will be constructed for the Titan 3 United Technologies Corp.'s Chemical systems Div. solids so the Thiokol solids can be moved into the older facility. The old solid facility will be enlarged by four times to accommodate the shuttle solids.
Refurbishment at Vandenberg
Other solid rocket booster hardware such as skirts, frustums and parachutes also will be returned to Port Hueneme after water recovery, but they will be trucked directly back to Vandenberg for refurbishment. United Space Boosters, Inc., will perform booster recovery and various booster refurbishment activities at Vandenberg, just as it does at Kennedy.
A new facility also is being constructed on south base for external tank storage. The Martin tanks will be barged from their Michoud, La., assembly plant through the Panama Canal and up to Vandenberg. The facility will be able to store four tanks and check out a fifth. A dock facility on the Pacific Coast will be built and a road laid between there and the tank storage building.
Both the solids and tanks will be towed from their respective storage facilities on south base to the shuttle launch pad for stacking. The solids will be transported in segment form to be stacked on the pad.
Launch Pad Differences
Shuttle launch pad at Vandenberg is totally different from the mobile launcher platform used at Kennedy.
The Vandenberg pad will involve modification of the old space launch complex (SLC 6) manned orbiting laboratory pad that would have supported Titan 3 manned space reconnaissance operations.
At Vandenberg, most payloads will be prepared for insertion directly into the shuttle in the payload preparation room adjacent to the pad. Vandenberg will use a factory-to-pad concept. Payloads will be transported in environmentally sealed containers to the payload preparation room and placed in one of three vertical checkout cells.
Following final checkout, the payload will be transferred to a payload ground handling mechanism. This will raise the payload and transfer it into Vandenberg's payload changeout room, a facility that can travel on rails between the pad and payload preparation room.
In order to load a payload into the shuttle, the room will move up against an already vertically stacked orbiter so that the changeout room doors can form a seal around the orbiter. Normal air will be vented and replaced with environmentally controlled air. The orbiter's payload bay doors then will be opened inside the paylaod changeout room allowing the mechanisms in the room to insert the payload into the orbiter.
A strongback on the payload changeout room also will be used to stack the orbiter and external tank.
First step in stacking a shuttle on the Vandenberg pad will be use of the hammerhead crane located on the fixed umbilical tower to lift and mate the shuttle solid rocket motor segments. Once both solid rocket boosters have been stacked, the payload changeout room strongback will lift up the external tank and place it between the two solids.
Following that, the strongback will lift the orbiter into place in the same manner. In order to reach the launch pad, the orbiter will be towed from north base to south base over about 16 mi. of existing roadway.
A fixed tower on the shuttle pad has been built by using steel left over from the earlier Titan umbilical tower for the manned orbiting laboratory. The mobile service tower built for that program is being retained as well and has been given a capability to move back an additional 150 ft. from the pad to satisfy shuttle launch requirements.
The mobile tower will be able to enclose much of the vehicle during portions of the stacking operation. Existing Titan flame duct will be retained for the space shuttle main engine plumes. Two new ducts are being built to vent the solid rocket booster plumes.
Launch processing system has been turned over to the Air Force by the contractors here and is now being checked with math models to verify that the complex computer interactions involved in the system are working smoothly in the new facilities.
The Kennedy and Vandenberg sites both use similar software to launch the space shuttle. Vandenberg software does have some differences, however, as a result of the operation here involving different types of facilities from Kennedy. Air Force officers here are in the early stages of developing the software requirements that are unique to Vandenberg.
There is substantial communication between launch processing system personnel at Vandenberg and the Kennedy Space Center, which is much further along in launch site software development.
Construction schedules to make a fall, 1984, IOC are already tight but possible, officers here believe.
Vandenberg earlier would have had the benefit of substantial Kennedy shuttle launch experience in preparing its facilities. Since Kennedy shuttle launches have been delayed, Vandenberg will not be able to benefit as much from the early shuttle flights from Kennedy that will be made before Vandenberg goes operational.
A potential problem is the work force size in the Lompoc, Calif., area where Vandenberg is located. In addition to space shuttle construction, a liquid natural gas storage area is being built nearby and will require as many or more workmen than the Vandenberg facilities.
Development testing of the MX missile at Vandenberg also will require construction by about 300 persons. During 1981-1983, when construction is under way on all the projects, workman availability could be a problem.