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Issues skyrocket over increased Vandenberg Space Force Base launches 

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. – There's been an increase in launches from Vandenberg Space Force Base in northern Santa Barbara County with the combination of Falcon 9 rockets on SpaceX missions and the ongoing U.S. Department of Defense schedule.

Issues about SpaceX launches have taken off at a rapid pace with the public concerned mainly about noise and environmental concerns. 

The California Coastal Commission meeting in Long Beach listened to the public and some solutions.

Mandy Sackett with the Surfrider Foundation said, "the launches are extremely loud and disrupted and the activities are adjacent to the Vandenberg state marine reserve part of our state's networks (of marine preserves) that need to be protected." She appeared as did many speakers, via Zoom.

The base had 19 launches in 2022, 37 launches in 2023 and it is expected to have about 50 launches this year. The base said next year could be double that. The commission is concerned about how all of this has been reviewed in advanced for every possible impact.

Coastal Commissioner Susan Lowenberg said, "and then we've also heard that potentially this year or next year there will be a request for 100 and at what  point do realize the effects here?" She was asking about the rising numbers and likened it to cutting salami, with a little more each time.

Vandenberg Space Force Base Operations Vice Commander Col. Bryan Titus said, "we are not going to be getting to 100 launches anytime soon. I don't think we have been shy about sharing that that's where we want to go. I don't see that happening for several more years."     

One of the concerns about the frequency of the launches is the rumbling of the skies and and on occasion the sonic booms. 

Ojai Resident Larry Steingold said, "the sonic booms is just... it's a bit much now. Maybe its  going a different direction when they leave the earth but something is going on that is a little different and it's completely unacceptable."

When addressing the launches Col. Titus said, "most of the time a SpaceX rocket goes up, it actually lands down closer to Southern California way Southern California closer to Mexico so you are not going to hear that sonic boom. "

The coastal commission was also concerned about the closures at Jalama Beach County park, near the base, when the launches take place. The launch schedule, delays and rescheduling have made that a new challenge to clear the public out and then allow them back in.

Because of that, more launches have been moved to the evening hours.

The commission has asked for more details on the number of launches, new impacts that have been raised and possible remedies.  

It's possible more public comments will be coming in at that time too about the launch schedule.

Goleta resident and marine biologist, Erin Eastwood said, "this proposal represents a sharp increase in the launches and when considered cumulatively at Vandenberg this will impact my daily life and those of many of  the communities nearby."

Some of the suggested offsets include more signage on Highway 1, at the turnoff to Jalama Beach which is a 45 minute drive. That would help the public know if the beach sites are closed for a launch. There was also a request for more internet technology at Jalama due to its isolated area.

Many environmentalists wanted continued studies on seals and sea lions in the area, but the base said so far, it's studies do not show any impacts from the launches.

The commission is considering remedies and has asked for more information for its next meeting in a month.

For more information for to: California Coastal Commission

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
Santa Barbara
Vandenberg space force base

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John Palminteri

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