Santa Barbara County Notables

Sources: Wikipedia; National Historical Landmarks

Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 10

Photograph of a Thor-Agena rocket on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 2E, surrounded by scrub vegetation and various support buildings, Space Launch Complex 2W on the right, SLC-1W on the left and SLC-1E in the middle and the Pacific Ocean in the distant background.



Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 10

Space Launch Complex 10, or Missile Launch Complex 10, is located on Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California. It was built in 1958 to test ballistic missiles and developed into a space launching facility in 1963. It remains a rare pristine look at the electronics and facilities created in that era which helped the United States grow their space capabilities.

The last launch from this complex was a Thor booster in 1980.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

It is undergoing an eight year restoration and public visits are possible, if arranged in advance.



SLC-10 was used to train military operators of PGM-17 Thor ballistic missiles, and to conduct missile launch tests. Seven launch attempts were conducted from SLC-10E by British Armed Forces Royal Air Force crews, of which six were successful. (There was also one PGM-17 Thor missile launch by an RAF crew from SLC-10W, which took place 1959-08-14.)

Johnston Island

The facilities at SLC-10 were dismantled and transported to Johnston Island in support of Operation Dominic, a nuclear weapons testing project conducted there in 1962.


The equipment was returned to Vandenburg to support early launches of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, which were conducted at SLC-10W from 1965 to 1980, using the Thor satellite launch vehicles, the first stages of which followed the design of the Thor missile.


Statement of Significance (as of designation - June 23, 1986):

Built in 1958 for the U.S. Air Force's Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) Testing Program, this complex was adapted for space flight purposes. The launch facility was first used on June 16, 1959. The blockhouse contains one of the best existing collections of the working electronics used to support launches of that era and the entire complex is the best surviving example of a working launch complex built in the 1950s at the beginning of the American effort to explore space.


Space Launch Complex 10 at Vandenberg Air Force Base is the best surviving example of a launch complex built in the 1950s at the beginning of the American effort to explore space.

Five years of a planned 8-year refurbishment have been completed at Space Launch Complex 10. Several buildings have been stabilized on the West launch pad, and a new ADA-compatible restroom has been added. Exterior drainage and landscape issues have been addressed, and other civil improvements have been made. A Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) document has been completed for management purposes, and an updated NHL site form also has been produced. Management and maintenance plans are being addressed, and the next three years should see the completion of the refurbishment and stabilization project if funding sources remain viable.


This page was last updated August 2, 2009.