The U.S. Air Force announced six finalists for the headquarters for its new U.S. Space Command on Nov. 20, and Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc was not one of them.
Vandenberg was one of 24 locations that was self-nominated by their local communities to serve as the headquarters. The six locations selected by the department were in New Mexico, Nebraska, Florida, Colorado, Texas and Alabama.
The Air Force will now evaluate each location, both virtually and on-site, and make its final decision in early 2021.
Vandenberg had been in the running to serve as the new headquarters for more than a year.
Its bid was submitted Aug. 30 by communities in Northern Santa Barbara County, led by the regional economic planning group Reach. The base’s leadership was not involved in the bid.
Had Vandenberg been selected, the Central Coast would have reaped huge economic benefits.
The $1 billion headquarters project would have brought 1,400 service members contributing to the local economy, and millions of dollars in contracts and services for construction and design, engineering, healthcare, tech, and mission-related activities for firms across the region.
It would also be a boost toward establishing a thriving commercial space industry, attracting high-quality jobs in an industry expected to grow worth $3 trillion over the next 30 years, according to Reach.
Reach is in year one of its 10-year economic development plan, which includes building a space enterprise at Vandenberg.
The nonprofit aims to develop a spaceport master plan, and the base has outlined seven key projects such as new administrative facilities, new launch pads and a dedicated commercial zone at its perimeter to help it compete for launches by private firms.
In July 2019, Vandenberg was named as a Combined Force Space Component Command, one of two key pieces of the Space Command organization overseeing services like GPS navigation, satellite communications and missile warning systems.
Vandenberg also plays a key role for SpaceX, Elon Musk’s aerospace company. SpaceX currently operates Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 4, which has two landing pads, both of which are used for Falcon 9 launch operations.
In 2019, Vandenberg was involved in two SpaceX launches, and there is another in the works. SpaceX is targeting the launch of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission from Vandenberg on Nov. 21 with a launch window at 9:17 a.m.
The company released a warning to the public on Nov. 20 that residents across the tri-counties may hear a sonic boom during the landing attempt.
The launch will be webcast live at spacex.com/launches beginning around 15 minutes before launch.