This Post Is Chock-Full Of Interesting StuffDan Quock sent in an informative e-mail with multiple links, and it's so interesting that I'm just going to use it in full. From here on, it's all Dan.
I thought this was interesting: some pictures of the Enterprise (non-flight vehicle) readied at Vandenberg AFB in California for testing. At one time, it was thought that the shuttle would launch from both Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg. Launches from the Cape tend to be low-inclination orbits (that is, a low angle from the equator that flies in a more east-westerly direction). When launching rockets with a low inclination, you want to be as close to the equator and launch eastward - you require less energy to get to orbit. That’s why our primary space port is on the southern tip of Florida. You may have heard of “Sea Launch”, which is a mobile platform that takes a rocket out to the equator in the Pacific and launches from there. The reason that was conceived was to provide a launch platform to get the maximum energy from being at the equator. Another example of this is the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana.
Launches from Vandenberg put satellites in a polar orbit (north-south). If you look at Vandenberg’s location, you can see that it “sticks out” from the California coast and has a clear path to launch rockets to the south without flying over any land mass: Vandenberg on Google Maps.
SpaceFlight Now is following the countdown of a Delta 4-Heavy and put in some pics of the Space Shuttle at Vandenberg. It’s listed under the Saturday, January 8, 2011 entry: Mission Status.
Here are the direct links to the pics, since the article may move down the page as the flight preparations continue:
Shuttle inside the hangar
Road trip to Launch Complex 6
At Space Launch Complex 6 (pronounced “slick 6”)
Launch Control Center
Some more pictures