A year after becoming part of the Defense Department’s newest branch, a colonel said that Vandenberg Space Force Base could see growth as part of the booming aerospace industry.
“Vandenberg is a happening place from a Space Force side of things,” said Col. Robert “Rob” Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander
His presentation occurred Thursday during the joint luncheon for the Santa Maria and Lompoc chambers of commerce, an annual event started some 15 years ago.
This marked the first in-person State of Vandenberg luncheon since 2019 due to COVID-19; the 2020 and 2021 events occurred virtually.
New or expanded military programs could bring additional business to Vandenberg, Long said.
“We’re working with all the agencies to figure out what the impact on the base is, and by extension what is the impact on community resources that are going to be needed. I think I’m safe in saying there will be some growth,” he said.
He added that discussions remain in the early stages so it’s difficult to provide details.
“We are fielding a lot of questions about what can Vandenberg provide for some of these new or expanding organizations, both in Space Force and Department of Defense,” he added.
This presents opportunities in housing, medical care and education, he added.
“We are looking for opportunities to partner in all of these areas,” Long said. “We have some opportunities here, I think, as we go forward in these three areas.”
Vandenberg has roughly 10,000 people on the base, including those who live and work there. Additionally, it has 1,000 homes and about 2,600 military dependents.
A recent analysis revealed Vandenberg has a $4.5 billiion economic impact on local communities.
“I think this is a great opportunity for us to remind the community about the opportunities that exist here at Vandenberg, and how those opportunities really could be a benefit to the region,” said Glenn Morris, president and chief executive officer for the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne said the annual luncheon serves as a reminder of Vandenberg’s value for national defense.
“This is a great reminder to our local communities how important Vandenberg is,” Osborne said, adding that the event emphasizes the strong relationshop between the base and neighboring communities. “We truly understand that we’re partners, that it’s their families that we support.”
Approximately 130 people attended the event held at the Pacific Coast Club on base as Long looked back and ahead while praising community support.
“Obviously, we can can’t do it without you. It takes a team on Vandenberg, but it takes a team within the whole community,” Long said.
He also announced that the base had added an award named after Robert “Bob” Hatch to be given out annually to the best community partner that supports the base in various ways. Hatch has been a longtime supporter of Vandenberg.
Long’s speech lacked specifics, including the number of launches expected in 2022, although he displayed a slide showing a forecast for future growth.
“The common theme though is there is no shortage of future missions coming our way and in the industry in general,” he said. “If you’re familiar with the space industry right now, it’s a booming time in the space industry, so we expect to see some of that come to here.”
This week the National Reconnaissance Office announced plans for a payload to launch April 15 on a Space Exploration Technologies Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg.
Long’s speech looked back at 2021, which had several firsts — including the first planetary defense mission with NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test, and the first up-range destruct command sent to a wayward rocket for Firefly Aerospace Alpha.
The primary job of Vandenberg’s main unit involves maintaining public safety during launches of rockets and missiles from the installation.
“For our team, it was a great learning event to make sure all of our processes were sound, in which they were,” he said.
During 2021, Vandenberg conducted 11 launches on eight different types of vehicles, he said, adding that diversity is unique to the base.
“It was an exciting time to be here over the last year and …there’s an exciting time to come,” he added.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.