SpaceX wins approval to add fifth U.S. rocket launch site

By Joey Roulette

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Space Force said on Monday that Elon Musk’s SpaceX was granted approval to lease a second rocket launch complex at a military base in California, setting the space company up for its fifth launch site in the United States.

Under the lease, SpaceX will launch its workhorse Falcon rockets from Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Space Force Base, a military launch site north of Los Angeles where the space company operates another launchpad. It has two others in Florida and its private Starbase site in south Texas.

A Monday night Space Force statement said a letter of support for the decision was signed on Friday by Space Launch Delta 30 commander Col. Rob Long. The statement did not mention a duration of SpaceX’s lease.

The new launch site, vacated last year by the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture United Launch Alliance, gives SpaceX more room to handle an increasingly busy launch schedule for commercial, government and internal satellite launches.

Vandenberg Space Force Base allows for launches in a southern trajectory over the Pacific ocean, which is often used for weather-monitoring, military or spy satellites that commonly rely on polar Earth orbits.

SpaceX’s grant of Space Launch Complex-6 comes as rocket companies prepare to compete for the Pentagon’s Phase 3 National Security Space Launch program, a watershed military launch procurement effort expected to begin in the next year or so.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Gerry Doyle)