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4th Space Launch Squadron

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

4th Space Launch Squadron
Air Force Space Command.png
Ignition of AV-035 on SLC-3E with LDCM on board.jpg
The Landsat Data Continuity Mission spacecraft launches aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle
Active1994-1998; 2003-present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
RoleSpace Launch
Part ofAir Force Space Command
Garrison/HQVandenberg AFB, California
DecorationsAir Force Outstanding Unit Award[1]
4th Space Launch Squadron emblem (approved 31 March 1995)[1]
4th Space Launch Squadron.jpg

The United States Air Force's 4th Space Launch Squadron is a space launch unit located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. It was active at Vandenberg from 1994 to 1998 and again from 2003. It launches various satellites into orbit from the complex of launch pads at Vandenberg.

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  • ✪ The Air Force’s Crazy 747 Aircraft Carrier Concept
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This video was made possible by SkillShare, home to over 26 thousand classes that’ll teach you just about anything. This is the Boeing 747. More than twice the size of any airliner before it, the ‘jumbo jet’ revolutionized air travel. And it impressed more than just the flying public. Because as crazy as it sounds, in 1973, the U.S. Air Force considered turning airliners into airborne aircraft carriers. These once classified documents detail how a 747 could be used to launch and recover fighter jets in mid-air. And how by the 1980s, airborne aircraft carriers stationed around the world would bring airpower to anywhere in just hours. In 1968, Boeing unveiled the 747. Two and half times the size of any jetliner before it, the so-called ‘jumbo jet’ transformed the way we fly. And at least part of the plane’s existence is thanks to this man; Juan Trippe, the President of Pan American Airways, and a bit of a visionary. Because Trippe foresaw how a plane this big could help decongest overcrowded airports and bring down the cost of flying opening up air travel to the middle class. And when Trippe’s airline put in the first order 747s, he boasted how the plane would become “a great weapon for peace” because it would connect the world and bring people together. But it turns out, the Air Force had other ideas. The 747, along with the newly introduced Lockheed C-5 were a new kind of aircraft. With their enormous size, power, and range, these planes opened up some intriguing possibilities. The Navy's seaborne carrier force could already move airpower across oceans. But an airborne equivalent would have the ability to reach deep inland areas and be in any part of the world in just hours. And the idea for an airborne carrier force wasn't totally out of left field. Because the Navy once had airborne aircraft carriers, two of them. When launched in the early 1930s, the airships USS Akron and USS Macon were the size of battleships. Crewed by sixty men and protected by eight machine guns, the enormous airships were just 5 meters short of being the largest objects to ever take to the skies. But these were no ordinary airships. Designed as long range scouts for the U.S. Navy, each had an internal hanger housing up to five planes called parasite fighters, which extended the airship’s scouting range, and could even help defended it. A trapeze system below the carrier would deploy and recover the fighters while in flight. The problem was, while the parasite fighters worked, the massive airships didn't. Both were destroyed in weather related accidents less than three years of their introduction. And that helped put an end to airships, but not the idea of flying aircraft carriers. Because a decade and a half later, the Air Force was again experimenting with the concept. For the first time ever, intercontinental bombers could fly halfway around the world, but their fighter escorts couldn’t. One promising solution was to have bombers carry their escorts along for the ride. But sticking a full sized fighter jet underneath a bomber would limit its range due to extra drag. So the new escort fighter would have to be small enough to fit entirely inside the bomb bay. And so this what they came up with, the world's tiniest fighter jet. The Air Force planned to have B-36 bombers carry anywhere from one to four these small jets, depending on the mission. This time the carrier worked, but the fighter jets didn't. The tiny egg-shaped jets were so sensitive to turbulence while docking, test pilots only ever managed to do it three times. It proved far too dangerous. But the efforts continued into the 1950s, including experimenting with a way to dock full size fighters to bombers by linking their wing-tips. The idea was to not only extend the range of the fighter jets, but the bombers as well, by effectively giving them a large glider-like wings. But docking using this system proved even more difficult and dangerous. Really the only successful implementation of the idea was to carry a single reconnaissance or nuclear strike fighter half tucked under a B-36, and just accept the extra drag. And by the mid-1950s, it was clear that newly perfected aerial refueling was a far safer and more sensible way to extend aircraft range. But the air force took yet another look in in 1973 because the landscape had changed entirely. The newly introduced 747 and C-5 were large and powerful enough to not only deploy and recover fighter escorts mid-air...but also refuel and rearm in mid-flight. So the Air Force commissioned Boeing to study the concept. And not surprisingly, Boeing focused on using a 747, citing superior range and cruising speed. And it would have worked something like this. Housed inside the 747’s pressurized hold would be 10 unique fighter jets called micro-fighters. With each fighter suspended from an overhead conveyor system, they could be positioned over one of two launch bays. To launch a fighter, a set of arms would lower it into a bay, which would then be sealed and depressurized. The jet would then be lowered, and away it would go. By Boeing’s estimates, it would take as little as eighty seconds to deploy two micro-fighters. To recover a fighter, it would first dock with a refueling boom, and if it needed rearming, the jet would be brought back inside. The carrier crew could turn around a micro-fighter for new mission in as little as ten minutes. Also crammed into the 747 would be fuel, armament and spare parts and a crew of 44. 12 carrier crew, 14 squadron pilots, and another 18 mission specialists. On top of that, the 747 would also be fitted with sleeping quarters and a crew lounge. That seems like a lot to jam inside one 747, but the viability of the concept hinged not so much on the carrier, but the fighters, which would have to be miniaturized to fit inside a carrier aircraft. With a wingspan just over 5 meters and about 1/3rd the weight of a conventional fighter. The micro-fighters would be armed with a pair of 20mm cannons, and could be fitted with air-to-air missiles or bombs. Boeing was confident these little guys could stand toe to toe with something like a MiG-21. Airborne carriers could operate out of anywhere with a big enough airfield and function as a battle group with supporting aerial refuelers and radar pickets, giving the Air Force the ability to be anywhere in the world, within hours, when a typical seaborne carrier force would need days or weeks. Of course, 747 aircraft carriers were never built and you’d need a lot more than a sixty page study to get something like this to work. And while Boeing’s engineers were confident that with further development airborne aircraft carriers could enter service by late 1980s, the Air Force didn’t pursue the idea. With air combat evolving so dramatically throughout the 1960s and 1970s, developing a 747 carrier with special micro-fighters would likely prove to be a dead end. Because light-weight micro-fighters might have made sense in the 1970s. By the late 1980s, they would have been hopelessly out classes against fourth generation fighters. But the Air Force isn’t done with the concept. Over the next couple few years, the Department of Defence will unveil a new carrier system. But this time, they’ll deploy unmanned drones, which in comparison, doesn't quite stir the imagination. 3D modelling is a great way to communicate ideas. But sometimes, a simple graphic.can be just as effective. Whether you’re trying to explain something, market your idea, or just have fun. And everything you need to know, from the basics of drawing, to mastering graphics software, is all at SkillShare An online community for creators, freelancers...or anyone who just wants to develop new skills. A foundational tool for your creative toolbox is vector drawing software. I use Adobe Illustrator…which is the the basis for all my still and motion graphics. A class that caught my eye was Dylan Mierzwinksi’s introduction to using the shape builder tool. In just under half an hour, you’ll, have all you need to create goofy characters or anything else you want. Quick, easy and fun, just another great SkillShare course. With over 23 thousand classes at your fingertips, covering just about anything, SkillShare is an incredible resource to have. And a premium subscription to SkillShare, is less than $10 a month. But if you’re one of the first 500 people to signup using the link in the description below, you get 2 months for absolutely free.



The 4th Space Launch Squadron is the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch agency for the West Coast. The EELV system is a liquid-fueled first stage Common Booster Core (CBC) that can be used alone, with strap-on solid fuel rocket boosters, or as a configuration of three CBCs acting as a more powerful booster.[2]


The squadron was activated at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on 15 April 1994. Until it was inactivated in June 1998, it launched surveillance and meteorological satellites into polar orbit.[1]

Since reactivation in 2003, the squadron has managed operations for EELVs.[1] The EELV program is intended to develop provide alternatives to older and expensive heavy-lift launch vehicles, such as the Titan IV. EELVs include:

The Boeing Delta IV. There are different configurations for the Delta IV, which can lift payloads from 9,000 lb to over 13,000 lb into Geosynchronous Orbit.
The Lockheed Martin Atlas V. This system also has different available configurations, and can lift payloads between 10,000 lb and 30,000 lb to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit.
The Delta II, a heritage vehicle smaller than the newer Delta IV. The Delta II can have up to nine external rockets strapped to its main stage, increasing lift capability. It can send approximately 4,000 lb into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit.[2]


  • Constituted as the 4th Space Launch Squadron on 29 March 1994
Activated on 15 April 1994
Inactivated on 29 June 1998
Activated on 1 December 2003[1]



  • Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, 15 April 1994 – 29 June 1998
  • Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, 1 December 2003 – present[1]


Award streamer Award Dates Notes
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 October 1994 – 30 September 1996 4th Space Launch Squadron[1]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 October 1996 – 30 September 1997 4th Space Launch Squadron[1]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 January 1997 – 31 December 1997 4th Space Launch Squadron[1]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 January 1998 – 29 June 1998 4th Space Launch Squadron[1]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 October 2009 – 30 September 2010 4th Space Launch Squadron[1]


  • Titan II (1997–1998)
  • Titan IV (1995–1997)
  • Delta IV (2003–present)
  • Atlas V (2003–present)



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Robertson, Patsy (17 March 2015). "Factsheet 4 Space Launch Squadron (AFSPC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Archived from the original on 27 September 2015. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b No byline (1 February 2007). "About us: 4th Space Launch Squadron". 30th Space Wing Public Affairs. Retrieved 8 August 2018.


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

This page was last edited on 13 May 2019, at 11:19
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