The base was originially established in 1941 as the US Army's Camp Cooke. The facility served as a training center for armored and infantry troops through World War II, and again in the Korean War.
The base was transferred to the US Air Force in 1957 and began its transformation into a space and ballistic missile test facility. The year after, the base was renamed after General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, second chief of staff of the Air Force.
In 1972, Vandenberg was selected as the West Coast Space Shuttle launch and landing site. Space Launch Complex 6 (SLC-6), originally built for the abandoned Manned Orbiting Laboratory project, was extensively modified for Shuttle operations. SLC-6 was nearly ready for its first Shuttle launch when the Challenger disaster grounded the program and set in motion a chain of events that led to the cancellation of all West Coast Shuttle flights.
Vandenberg's location north of the Pacific Ocean makes it possible to easily launch satellites into polar orbit, unlike the Kennedy Space Center. This, along with its location relative to the jet stream, makes Vandenberg a good site to launch reconnaissance satellites.
Today Vandenberg is home to the 30th Space Wing and the Western Range, and is responsible for satellite launches for military and commercial organizations, as well as testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles including the Minuteman III and Peacekeeper ICBMs.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the base has a total area of 57.3 km² (22.1 mi²). 57.1 km² (22.1 mi²) of it is land and 0.2 km² (0.1 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.32% water.
As of the census of 2000, there are 6,151 people, 1,707 households, and 1,601 families residing in the base. The population density is 107.7/km² (278.8/mi²). There are 1,992 housing units at an average density of 34.9/km² (90.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the base is 72.26% White, 11.74% African American, 0.54% Native American, 3.90% Asian, 0.65% Pacific Islander, 4.96% from other races, and 5.95% from two or more races. 11.10% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 1,707 households out of which 71.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 87.2% are married couples living together, 3.8% have a female householder with no husband present, and 6.2% are non-families. 5.4% of all households are made up of individuals and 0.0% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 3.33 and the average family size is 3.44.
In the base the population is spread out with 38.0% under the age of 18, 15.2% from 18 to 24, 44.7% from 25 to 44, 1.9% from 45 to 64, and 0.2% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 24 years. For every 100 females there are 109.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 116.2 males.
The median income for a household in the base is $39,444, and the median income for a family is $40,000. Males have a median income of $27,352 versus $22,283 for females. The per capita income for the base is $13,570. 7.1% of the population and 6.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 10.4% are under the age of 18 and 0.0% are 65 or older.