Most government budget proposals — be they local, state or federal — are wish lists whose leaders toss ideas at the wall and hope they stick. President Trump’s notion of a national Space Force is one of those.
After the idea-tossing phase comes the commonsense phase, which for most governments consists of two sides debating the merits, then discarding the ones that don’t work ideologically or financially.
How the president’s Space Force will fare once it gets to a divided Congress is anyone’s guess, but we have to say such an operation could be a blessing for the Central Coast because it's home to Vandenberg Air Force Base.
VAFB’s Space Wing Commander Col. Michael Hough touched on the subject of a national Space Force in response to an audience question during his recent State of the Wing presentation, essentially saying VAFB would be ready for such an operation.
Hough also told a local audience that while the space launch schedule so far for 2019 is a little on the light side, with only one launch penciled in, he expects a lot more activity in the years ahead.
He’s likely right about that, given the interest shown by private space companies to avail themselves of Vandenberg’s outstanding launch facilities.
In fact, the lull this year could be a blessing for VAFB, allowing time to prepare for a veritable stampede of private companies wanting to do business from Vandenberg. The colonel said that among the companies getting into or expanding launch operations at VAFB are SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Firefly Aerospace, Vector Launch, Omega, Relativity Space and Rocket Lab. Hough also said Blue Origin is working on developing a launch site on base.
If all those companies do, in fact, choose VAFB, local space fans will see a lot of private launches over the next few years. And as we’ve said so many times, if you haven’t witnessed a launch, you must add it to your things-to-do list.
And while the State-of-the-Wing presentation really didn’t get into yet another plan on the table for a private space center complex in the Lompoc Valley, news that more companies will likely bring their business to VAFB is another piece of compelling information for local elected officials who will decide how to handle this latest space center proposal.
The newest effort to complete the regional space center dream was presented at a recent Lompoc City Council meeting. Council officials and audience members perked up when one of the proposed project’s principals referred to it as a potential “national treasure.”
We have all heard this story before, a couple of times. But while the pitch council members heard recently is not totally unlike previous space center proposals — building a multi-faceted complex on city-owned land between North H Street and Hancock College’s Lompoc Valley campus — this latest effort seems to be on substantially more solid fiscal ground.
The timetable for the space center seems to jibe with the tentative schedule Col. Hough outlined during his presentation. If Congress goes along with President Trump’s Space Force idea, that also could play a major role in Lompoc’s decision about letting a private company use city-owned land for the center.
Still, the base going slow on launches this year will probably make space junkies fidgety, and the 18 launches that occurred throughout 2018 — a record for Vandenberg — will have only exacerbated the itch to see more launches.
And we must never forget what a major impact a series of launches and a space center would likely have on the region’s economy.