Space Shuttle:

Issues Associated With the Vandenberg Launch Site

NSIAD-87-32BR: Published: Oct 31, 1986. Publicly Released: Dec 1, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the space shuttle program's Vandenberg launch site (VLS) in California, specifically: (1) the Air Force's cost estimates for various VLS operating levels and VLS technical issues identified in a congressional report; (2) plans for manned spaceflight from VLS; (3) the President's rationale for replacing the space shuttle Challenger; (4) the membership of two interagency groups that reviewed the programmatic implications of the Challenger's loss; and (5) a history of VLS funding.

GAO found that, for fiscal year (FY) 1989: (1) four VLS launches per year would cost $416.6 million; (2) the operational caretaker would cost $200 million; (3) the facility caretaker would cost $150.1 million; and (4) the mothball operating level would cost $25.9 million. GAO also found that: (1) the VLS cost estimate for the operational and facility caretaker and the mothball operating level included reductions to certain major VLS budget items; (2) VLS officials are addressing all technical issues involving the facility's operational readiness; (3) the reevaluation of planned shuttle missions and launch dates resulted in the Air Force shifting some VLS missions to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and to expendable launch vehicles, as well as delaying some missions; (4) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Defense prepared a draft report that recommended replacement of Challenger; (5) the President considered foreign perceptions of U.S. resolve, U.S. space launch needs, and the fact that not replacing the shuttle would weaken the case for opening VLS in his rationale for replacing the shuttle; (6) officials from several federal agencies reviewed the implications of Challenger's loss; and (7) total funding for VLS through 1986 was $453.8 million.

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