The cachets are usually black, green, or a shade of magenta. For the latter, they have been described as "purple" in the book and examples range from a bright red to a dark magenta. To date, only once launch appears to have a green cachet. The cachets appear to be stamped on the envelopes in the same position with little, or no, variation in their placement for each individual launch. It would be fair to also describe them as not being very appealing visually.
The cachets have either KSC-WLOD (Kennedy Space Center-Western Launch Operations Division) or KSC-WOSO (Western Operations Support Office) as part of the cachet and are larger than the generally smaller blue and red NASA cachets from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida that were provided for most of the manned launches. The Space Lab and a few other later cachets were larger and exceptions to the smaller previous ones.
According to Mr. Bizub, collectors could send up to two blank envelopes to the Public Relations office at Vandenberg AFB prior to a launch, requesting the cachet. His father, who used to send for these cachets related that one never knew what one would receive in return. At times you got two of the same cachet, at others two different cachets.
In the Collect Space web site at www.collectspace.com Mr. Ball published additional information about this series of cachets, stating that the WOSO (WLOD) covers were the topic of discussion in the July 1975 publication Explorer, but by 1978 Linn's Stamp Newspaper reported that the public relations office at Vandenberg had been closed. Fortunately, Mr. Gene Schlimmer, a NASA employee and philatelist continued to service these covers for collectors.
Mr. Ball additionally stated that in 1979 Explorer magazine reported that NASA would terminate cancelling covers for the Western Test Range in California immediately. However, it is known that covers were still being being stamped with new cachets up to 1981, and possibly as late as 1984. An obvious unanswered question is who was creating these cachets and if they did continue to appear, were the later ones sanctioned by NASA? At this time there are no identified cachets after October 6, 1981.
Because these cachets look like many of the other rubber stamped cachets being produced for the Vandenberg launches, and are not very distinctive, they are not recognized by collectors for what they are. Obviously they must be considered somewhat scarce as not many people were aware of them and those that were could only request two for each launch, and at times only received one. That meant that none of the major servicers had them to distribute to their customers. They did however have hundreds of cancelled envelopes for these launches to which they applied their own cachets. Without being aware that these are official NASA cachets, most collectors would ignore them for printed cachets with attractive art work done in several colors, that would be unaddressed. Collectors should be aware that U.S. collectors like their covers unaddressed, while European collectors like them addressed and sent through the mail.
No definitive list exists for the cachets as no one seems to know which are the NASA cachets for many of the launches. To date, this list is the most complete one known. To complicate matters, some non-NASA rubber stamped cachets had "KSC-WOSO" as part of their designs as well. Often a cachet is thought to be one from this series, but later found not to be. That appears to be the case with many of those previously thought to be identified.
Another mystery is that some covers are numbered on the front in black ink, as if someone were trying to keep track of the number serviced. For some of the launches some covers have larger size numbers, and other covers of the same launch have smaller size numbers stamped on them. One can conclude that there must have been two counting systems going on at the same time. On the other hand, most of the launches have no numbers stamped on them.
What we do have to work with at this time are two different lists - identified cachets and "possibles." Originally, the two lists were almost identical in size, with the "possible" cachets out-numbering the identified cachets by two. Several cachets from the "possibles" have now been identified and some of those previously identified have been found not to be part of the series. Mr. Bizub related that the "possible" list is only a list of the NASA launches from Vandenberg in an attempt to narrow down the possibilities. There is no evidence at this time suggesting NASA cachets exist for many of them. Only time and the help of other collectors will tell.
Bear in mind while looking for these covers that:
1. They only exist for some of the NASA launches, not the military launches common from this site.
2. Cachets are one color - black, green, and magenta and it's shades. Most being black or magenta.
3. All have Vandenberg AFB or Lompoc, California postmarks.
4. Most covers are addressed or have had address stickers removed.
5. NASA is written in a stylized fashion in the cachet of October 6, 1975 and all later cachets.
October 15, 1972
ITOS-D Black cachet Vandenberg AFB Additional black cachet added
The listings begin with a problem. The first identified cachet was the ITOS-F launch of November 5, 1973. The problem is that there is a cover with a nearly identical cachet with a slightly different text for the ITOS-D, launched on October 15, 1972, which reads, "Western Test Range VAFB, California." This date has always been listed as one of the "possible" cachets. While it was the author's opinion that these were genuine cachets from this series, Mr. Bizub's father, who used to collect these, related that the first three cachets with borders, were provided by a servicer and are not NASA cachets.
November 21, 1972
ESRO-IV Black cachet Vandenberg, AFB
November 5, 1973
ITOS-F Black cachet Vandenberg, AFB
All of the following covers were thought at one time to be part of this series. It is now known that these cachets were provided by a servicer, not by NASA.
Starting with the October 6, 1975 cachet all covers have NASA added to them and it is written in a stylized manner. It is believed at this time that these are the only identified cachets provided by NASA.
October 6, 1975
AE-D Black cachet Vandenberg AFB Has LIFTOFF 02:00 in black added
Previously, all the cachets appear to have been stamped in black ink. Most of the following cachets are in shades of magenta.
December 5, 1975
DAD Magenta cachet Vandenberg AFB
May 4, 1976
LAGEOS Magenta cachet Vandenberg AFB
Magenta cachet Vandenberg AFB Has LIFTOFF 01:00 in black added
July 29, 1976
ITOS-E2-H Magenta cachet Vandenberg AFB Has LIFTOFF 10:07 in red added
Green cachet Vandenberg AFB Only known green cachets
Magenta cachet (?) Lompoc
Green cachet Lompoc
From this point on the site is identified as KSC-WOSO in the cachets.
March 6, 1978
LANDSAT-C Magenta cachet Vandenberg AFB
April 26, 1976
AEM-A Magenta cachet Vandenberg AFB
June 26, 1978
SEASAT-A Magenta cachet Vandenberg AFB Large black numbers on the envelope
October 13, 1978
TIROS-N Magenta cachet Vandenberg AFB Large black numbers
October 24, 1978
NIMBUS-G Magenta cachet Vandenberg AFB Large black numbers on envelope
June 27, 1979
NOAA-A Magenta cachet Vandenberg AFB Small black numbers on envelope
Magenta cachet Vandenberg AFB Large black numbers on envelope
October 30, 1979
MAGSAT Magenta cachet Vandenberg AFB
May 29, 1980
NOAA-B Black cachet Vandenberg AFB
June 23, 1981
NOAA-C Magenta cachet Vandenberg AFB Oddly, these cachets have "WTR/Vandenberg AFB, CA, but no "KSC-WLOD" or "KSC-WOSO."
Black cachet Vandenberg AFB
The site is now identified as WSMC/Vandenberg, AFB, CA in the cachet.
October 6, 1981
SME Explorer Magenta cachet Vandenberg AFB
POSSIBLY PART OF THIS SERIES
This list is taken from Mr. Bizub's article. Basically, this is a list of the NASA launches from the Western Test Range, in an attempt to narrow down the possibilities of what might exist. It is this author's opinion that NASA cachets probably do not exist for most of these launches.
January 31, 1972 HEOS A-2
March 11, 1972 ESRO
July 23, 1972 ERTS-A
October 15, 1972 ITOS-D
November 21, 1972 ESRO-IV
December 10, 1972 NIMBUS-5
December 16, 1972 AEROS
July 16, 1973 ITOS-E
December 15, 1973 EXPLORER-51
March 8, 1974 UK-X4
June 3, 1974 Scout
July 16, 1974 Scout [AEROS-B]
October 27, 1977 Scout
May 14, 1981 NOVA-1
August 3, 1981 Dynamic Explorer
October 6, 1981 SM Explorer
July 16, 1982 LANDSAT-D
January 25, 1983 IRAS
May 26, 1983 EXOSAT
June 27, 1983 STP-83-1
March 1, 1984 LANDSAT-D Prime
October 11, 1984 NOVA-III
I would like to thank David Ball and Eddie Bizub for their help in writing and illustrating this web page. If anyone can add more information to this, as of yet unresolved mystery please contact me at rhcourtney33 at gmail.com.
Mr. Ball's book American Astrophilately: The First 50 Years, can be ordered at www.americanastrophilately.com.