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  Space Cover 209: Vandy Officials

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 209: Vandy Officials

Posts: 244
From: Boston, Mass.
Registered: Jun 2005

posted 04-14-2013 05:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NAAmodel#240   Click Here to Email NAAmodel#240     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cover of the Week, Week 209 (April 14, 2013)

Space Cover #209: Vandy Officials

NASA and Vandenberg AFB in California have a storied past. Discoverer I, the first American satellite to achieve polar orbit left Vandenberg in February 1959. While Cape Canaveral and later the Kennedy Space Center in Florida have lofted America's astronauts from the Eastern Test Range a sizable number of unmanned flights began at the Western Test Range in California. Plans to launch astronauts from Vandenberg were scuttled after breathtakingly expensive expenditures to prepare the launch site. First the Titan III facility was mothballed when the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) was cancelled. The site was then transformed at great expense to support launches of the Space Shuttle. Before the first could blast off the Challenger accident happened and the fleet grounded.

Vandy Officials come in a couple of different flavors. All are postmarked at Vandenberg AFB or Lompoc, California. All will commemorate a specific NASA launch. Here the classic magenta is replaced by a pink cachet. The reduced artwork presentation is as least as common as the first example.

Astrophilatelist are familiar with rubber stamp cachets applied in Florida for manned and some unmanned flights between 1965 and 1975. These are commonly referred to as "KSC Officials". From the early 1970s through perhaps the mid-1980s NASA personnel applied artwork on the West Coast as well. At least 20 "Vandy Official" launches are known and perhaps as many more are suspected. Kennedy Space Center-Western Launch Operations Division (KSC-WLOD) cachets are a pinkish-magenta although light green cachets and some black cachets also exist. Also look for KSC-WOSO or NASA-WOSO (Western Operations Support Office) as part of the cachet.

Here a rather Spartan black cachet is seen. This size, color and printing method are exist on several launch cachets. They often provide the precise date and time of the satellite launch.

NASA cachets at VAFB were the headline of the July 1975 publication Explorer. It suggested interested collectors send two covers per launch (there were between 4-7 launches per year) to NASA/WLOD in Lompoc. By 1978 Linn's Stamp News was reporting that the NASA WLOD Public Affairs office had been closed. Fortunately, Gene Schlimmer, a NASA employee and philatelist continued to provide the service. In 1979 Explorer quoted the space agency, "NASA will discontinue its practice of cacheting launch covers for the Western Test Range in California, effective immediately". This wasn't quite true as launches continue to receive artwork at least through 1981 and perhaps as late as 1984.

Here is yet another Vandy. Like the others it has a form of KSC/WLOD. It is the only known framed cachet but since half of the possible dates have not yet been discovered who knows how atypical this is.

Other NASA Centers produced "Officials" including Ames, Edwards, and Marshall to name a few. Like Vandenberg none are well documented. Since Vandy Officials are not well known and at a glance look like any of hundreds of launches from VAFB they can be found in the dollar box and are fun to collect. Eddie Bizub, formerly the junior "E" of E & E Space covers and now the owner of Liberty Bell 7 Space Covers compiled the list of known Vandy Officials. You can read his article on the subject in the handbook American Astrophilately: The First Fifty Years.

David S. Ball
SU #3838


Posts: 1077
From: Shady Side, Md
Registered: Sep 2004

posted 04-14-2013 06:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Apollo-Soyuz   Click Here to Email Apollo-Soyuz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dave- Very informative post. I have some of these cachets and wondered about their history. Thanks for your post and welcome to the SCOTW rotation.

Bob M

Posts: 1689
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 04-15-2013 08:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very interesting and nicely done, David! We'll look forward to future SCOTW postings from you.


Posts: 1956
From: Atlanta, GA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 04-15-2013 10:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for this interesting post!


Posts: 112
From: WV, USA
Registered: Sep 2006

posted 04-22-2018 07:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for astrobock   Click Here to Email astrobock     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just wanted to add to this post a very informative VAFB NASA cachet information webpage published by Howard Courtney.

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 2605
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 04-23-2018 07:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good report, David, and if anyone is looking for Vandy covers, I've got a bunch of them.

You know, the maiden shuttle launch from VAFB was originally scheduled for the spring of 1986 (later changed to July and than October) with the STS-62A crew commanded by Crippen.

Despite the numerous technical, safety, environmental, and cost overruns of having the shuttle on the West Coast, if it hadn't been for the Challenger tragedy in January 1986, there still was a good chance that Crippen's crew would have attempted their inaugural shuttle polar-orbit flight that same year or in early 1987.

NASA and the Air Force had even issued an official press release for Mission 62A
in outlining their news media coverage of the launch from SLC-6 and flight from California.

Hart Sastrowardoyo

Posts: 3311
From: Toms River, NJ
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 04-24-2018 08:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by Ken Havekotte:
You know, the maiden shuttle launch from VAFB was originally scheduled for the spring of 1986 (later changed to July and than October) with the STS-62A crew commanded by Crippen.

Earlier than that: spring or mid-1985. One NASA release for what would become 61B (might even have that flight designation) stated that mission would be Ross' second flight....

Probably for another post, but out of curiosity, does anybody have any shuttle-related Vandenberg covers, perhaps for when the four ETs arrived, or when Enterprise was fit checked?

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