Vandenberg Consolidates Operations on Western Launch Range

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the NROL-47 mission lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

By Michael Peterson
30th Space Wing Public Affairs

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The 30th Range Management Squadron inactivated and merged with the 2nd Range Operations Squadron here, July 10. The reorganization allows all range mission assurance operations to be conducted under a single chain of command. This combining of responsibilities allows two similar mission sets to continue providing a unified front for the Western Range.

“This process will empower our squadrons to push responsibility to our experts in the field and streamline our range management capabilities.” said Lt. Col. Max Coberly, 30th RMS commander. “This merger will offer our squadrons more flexibility in responding to the challenges of the range.”

“Since the activation of the 30th RMS in 2002, the unit has enabled 142 launches from Vandenberg,” said Col. Curtis Hernandez, 30th Operations Group commander. “The unit has also placed 73 satellites into orbit, valued at over 53.6 billion dollars, providing critical nation defense and commercial industry capabilities that protect and enable the American and global way of life.”

The 30th RMS inactivation and merge into the 2nd ROPS is a major step taken by the 30th Space Wing to reach its mission goal of “providing robust, relevant and efficient spaceport and range capabilities for the nation.”

“This Wing provides range support for nationally critical missions.” said Col. Michael Hough, 30th Space Wing commander. “We have to position ourselves to provide efficient, flexible range capabilities.”

The move to combine squadrons returns the decision-making down to the lower levels, improves readiness, and unifies the efforts of the wing towards the same goal while removing unnecessary barriers brought on by duplicated responsibilities. With the unified commands, Lt. Col. Meredith Beg, 2nd ROPS commander, sees the groundwork for an improved Western Range capability.

“The 30th RMS has made significant contributions to the defense of our nation, and cemented America’s current position as the dominant space power on this planet,” said Hernandez. “We will ensure America’s access to space is agile, efficient and lethal. This is an inactivation of a unit that maintained Vandenberg’s relevance to the nation and the planet, and has ensured our legacy into the future.”

  • I wonder if this presages the Western Range making attempts to increase cadence for the commercial folks.

  • My understanding is the military side is planning to use any additional capacity. I don’t think VAFB is going to be a great place to do a lot of commercial launches in the future.

  • I’d think that the military relying more on small sats would imply fewer polar launches and more low-inclination stuff. Polar’s great when you need full-globe coverage, but most wars get fought below latitudes of 55°.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    There’s a lot of military naval and aviation facilities north of 55, and the Arctic sea is still a major hangout for Russian SSBN’s. There’s still plenty of reason to keep an eye on the Arctic region. I also read a few months back SX and NASA were looking at doing polar (and sun sync too?) out of KSC by doing some turning while burning to avoid Cuba. If that happens perhaps Vandenberg will be more focused on military flights?

  • Emmet Ford

    …that protect and enable the American and global way of life.

    And we call our protection of the global way of life, “the sixth great extinction.”

  • Larry J

    If you’re doing imaging work, it’s hard to beat the sun-synchronous orbit (about 96 degrees inclination).