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20-Sep-07 | A question about the west coast’s final “Super Six”

A reader e-mailed with an interesting hypothesis about a possible error buried deep within the Flight Log:

I have a question on one of the last flights from pad 2E at Vandenberg AFB—or perhaps one of the first Delta flights from pad 2W.

Something seems a little odd with the sequence as it’s commonly listed:

The Jan. 23, 1970 flight of Tiros-M (ITOS-1) on a Delta N-6 (Delta 76) was the first flight off Pad 2W after, as you note, its modification to accept the six solid configuration.

The Dec. 11, 1970 flight of ITOS-A (NOAA 1) on a Delta N-6 (Delta 81) also is listed off Pad 2W. So far, so good.

The next Delta N-6 flight from Vandenberg comes on Oct. 21, 1971 (Delta 86) with the launch of ITOS-B. It’s listed as coming off Pad 2E however, not 2W. This seems rather odd to me as it would require 2E to have been modified for the N-6 when there’s already a perfectly capable pad available, and 2E would soon be torn down. The two remaining launches off 2E do not involve the six solid configuration.

This makes a lot of sense. On-line sites all concur about the flight having been from 2-East, but they are likely cribbing from each other. This site’s original source was the 1991 edition of Steven J. Isakowitz’s International Reference Guide to Space Launch Systems, which may well have had a typo—after all, W and E are adjacent on the keyboard. A check of the updated 2004 edition is pending. Meanwhile, readers with further information on this conundrum are asked to comment on this post.

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