Place

Delta-01 Launch Control Facility

a red gas pump stands outside a fenced compound with a large tan building
Outside the gate

NPS Photo

Quick Facts

Restroom - Accessible, Wheelchair Accessible, Wheelchairs Available, Baby Changing Station, Benches/Seating, Cellular Signal, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Information Kiosk/Bulletin Board, Restroom, Trailhead, Toilet - Flush

"It just looked like a ranch house, it looked like a sort of, one-story house, you might see elsewhere in the area. Slightly more modern perhaps than others. What distinguished these launch centers, was that they were surrounded by fences, and they were highly secured areas. So, you couldn’t just drive up and go in like you might be able to do with someone’s house in the American West, where you can sort of show up and they’ll invite you in for dinner. But, beneath this house, is actually what was really interesting." ~ Historian Gretchen Heefner

Delta-01 occupies an open, grassy tract of land on the west side of a county road, approximately one-half mile north of Interstate 90’s Exit 127. The complex occupies approximately 6.4 acres of the South Dakota landscape with approximately 1.85 acres located within the security fence. Approaching the site from the interstate highway, it looks like a lone ranch house in the open grassland. Over the years, most travelers on the nearby Interstate probably did not give the site a second look or even know what military capabilities lay within the South Dakota plains.

Launch Control Facility (Topside)

This building functioned as topside support for the underground Launch Control Center which lay 31 feet below the Launch Control Facility (LCF). It acted as a multi-purpose facility. 

The topside supported the missileers stationed underground in carrying out their mission. Equipment such as a backup generator for auxiliary power, and environmental control provided backup support in the event of a power outage or an attack. There were always eight people on the topside, all enlisted Air Force personnel who were stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, 60 miles to the west. These personnel included a Facility Manager (top ranking Non-Commissioned Officer on-site), a cook and six security police. They worked three straight days on, followed by three days off.

In addition, the site had bunk housing for visitors, such as maintenance teams who were required to remain over night at the nearest LCF if they exceeded 16 hours in a work shift at one of the missile silos. They would spend the night at the nearest LCF before driving back to Ellsworth Air Force Base the following day. The building also contained a Security Control Center, where all security activities were coordinated and personnel would be processed when coming on site. Other areas on the topside included a day room, dining area and recreational room that Air Force support personnel used while at the facility.

Launch Control Center Delta-01

For every 10 Minuteman nuclear missiles (known as a Flight) there would be an underground Launch Control Center (LCC) that remotely commanded and controlled the missiles. Since there were 1000 Minuteman Missiles across the upper Great Plains from the early-1960s up until the mid-1990s, there would have been 100 Launch Control Centers. The LCC at Delta-01 was 31 feet beneath the ground of the Launch Control Facility.

Two missileers worked and lived on 24 hour alert duty shifts within the LCC. There was an eight ton blast door that had to be opened from within before an oncoming Missile Combat Crew could enter the LCC. The two person crew would spend most of their time monitoring the status of their 10 missiles. Among their other work duties was authenticating message traffic, remotely monitoring maintenance at the silos and assisting with the dispatch of security police if any motion sensing alarms were tripped at the silos. When the missileers were not performing work duties they would pass time by reading, watching television or studying for master's degrees through a special Air Force educational program. There was also a bunk provided for one missileer to sleep while the other crewmember kept an eye on the weapons system. Former missileer, David Blackhurst remembered that missile duty was "hours and hours of sheer boredom, punctuated by seconds of panic."

Missileers waited and waited over several decades for a launch command they hoped would never arrive. If the command to launch was given, it would have come in the form of an Emergency War Order (EWO).

Visiting Delta-01

Take a mobile phone tour of the exterior of Delta-01

Virtually explore Delta-01's topside rooms, support area, and underground control center.

All ranger-led tours of the interior of the Delta-01 facility require advanced reservations. 

Last updated: July 15, 2020