PILLAR POINT AIR FORCE STATION
Published February 03, 2015
To provide our Nation unique capabilities for assured access to and from space.
Pillar Point Air Force Station is located on a 55 acre parcel of land 20 miles south of San Francisco. Adjacent to the community of Half Moon Bay, the site is positioned on a point of land 175 feet in elevation with steep cliffs jutting into the Pacific Ocean. The land was originally purchased by the Army in 1940 for use as an observation post. In 1958 the Navy took over operation, using it as a control site for missile testing. Ownership of the site was transferred to the Air Force in 1964 to support ballistic missile test launches out of Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The site currently consists of 35 buildings; radar, telemetry antennas, command antennas and associated support buildings. The station is manned by a team of contracted technical workers who operate and maintain the site and its equipment in support of space and ballistic missile launches. Nearly 300 miles north of Vandenberg AFB, PPAFS is a particularly advantageous location from which to monitor ballistic launches because of its off-axis location, allowing site instrumentation to avoid signal degradation caused by rocket plume. Additionally, the site supports aeronautical testing for such platforms as the Joint Strike Fighter and F-22.
The large radome that is most noticeable from Hwy 1 encloses a 44 foot telemetry dish that receives signals from vehicles in flight. The site also contains a 40 foot telemetry dish and a tracking radar which are currently not in use. A dual command transmitter ensures that any errant vehicles are disabled in the broad ocean area, away from populated areas, to protect the public. Weather, communication, and electrical generator systems are part of the on-site support infrastructure. This location provides an outstanding aspect for supporting tests and launches of US military and commercial vehicles.