Spacelift Washington: Air Force Will Buy Test Flight of First Heavy Lift EELV

By frank_sietzen
October 8, 2000
Filed under ,

Spacelift Washington

Spacelift Washingon Archive

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 – The U.S. Air Force will spend $141 million to validate the heavy lift configuration of Boeing’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), according to Air Force and Boeing sources. The booster, comparable to the existing Lockheed Martin Titan IV, will launch in the early part of the 2003 Fiscal Year that begins in October, 2002. It was not yet clear if the demonstration launch will carry an Air Force operational satellite as a payload or developmental instrumentation. The objective of the test flight, according to launch industry sources, is to prove the flight worthiness of the large launcher, which Boeing calls the Delta IV Heavy Lift.

19 October 2000 Update According to Lt. Col Janet Koreca, Director of Launch Vehicles for the US Air Force’s Executive Office for Space, Boeing will shortly announce that Boeing will launch its first EELV (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) in November 2001. The launch will carry a commercial payload aboard a medium lift Delta IV rocket. Koreca spoke with SpaceLift Washington’s Frank Sietzen outside the COMSTAC (Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee) Fall Meeting today.

The Lockheed Martin EELV series is under development as the Atlas V family of configurations. Thus far Air Force orders for Delta IV EELVs have outstripped Lockheed’s Atlas V selections, although only one major package of military orders has been placed for the EELV boosters, meant to replace all Delta, Atlas, and Titan launch vehicles now bought by the U.S. military for defense-related and classified spacecraft. The Air Force initiated development of the EELV in 1994 to lower the cost of launching payloads into orbit aboard expendable rockets. Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin have announced commercial contracts for civil use of both EELV launch vehicle families.

Of today’s existing expendable boosters, versions of the Delta and Atlas are also sold as commercial cargo carriers. The Titans are used only for government payloads such as military satellites or NASA planetary probes.

In fact the dawn of the EELV era is now just a year away and its first use will not be for the military that developed it. The first launch of an EELV-derivative will come late next year with a commercial satellite customer, Boeing officials say. That EELV version will be the Delta IV in a medium plus lifter configuration. The first military customer won’t fly until 2002. That first Air Force use of the Boeing EELV will use the medium configuration. The payload will be the TRW Defense Support Program (DSP) early warning satellite. The Delta IV will mark the third different launch vehicle for the DSP program, following its launches aboard the Titan family and space shuttle orbiter. DSP satellites currently are launched aboard the Titan IV from Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida.

Boeing has also picked up a pair of weather satellite launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast that were to be launched by Lockheed boosters. And in other EELV-related developments published reports say that Lockheed has decided not to proceed with the development of its heavy lift version of Atlas V from Vandenberg, due to a shrinking commercial market for the large vehicle and Boeing’s dominant role in gathering military heavy lift contracts. The company will instead concentrate on medium boosters which have more of a commercial audience, sources in the launch community have said.

The development is a reversal of Lockheed Martin’s historic pedigree in heavy lift launch vehicle development since acquiring the Atlas Centaur launch vehicle production as a result of its Martin Marietta acquisition. Martin in turn bought the Atlas and its Centaur upper stage from General Dynamics, which in turn acquired the launchers from Convair. Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin offer versions of their EELV designs in multiple configurations. The medium and medium plus variants are obtained through use of additional strap-on boosters which raise the rocket’s payload lifting capability.

The development is also an acknowledgment of the changing nature of the launch business, which has contracted since the publication of more optimistic projections of satellite business made in the latter 1990s.
Boeing spokesperson Walt Rice told Spacelift Washington the heavy lift Delta IV will sell for $148 to $160 million for a commercial launch contract, depending on specific performance requirements.

The era of the EELVs, Atlas V and Delta IV, was to coexist with the early development of a fully reusable launch vehicle (RLV) called VentureStar. But the same contracting commercial market that has impacted plans for the development of expendable rockets has made a commercial case for any new RLV impossible without government funding. VentureStar was to have been built as well as operated by Lockheed Martin.

Its ultimate fate may be decided by a series of test flights of a subscale version called X-33. That first test flight won’t happen until 2003-about when the Air Force’s heavy lift Delta IV test flight takes place.

Related Links

  • Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Main Site, US Air Force
  • Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program Information, US Air Force

  • Delta Expendable Launch Vehicle Family, Boeing
  • Delta IV (EELV) Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, Boeing
  • Images of the Delta IV – Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), Boeing
  • “America Needs the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle”, Boeing
  • Atlas Launch Vehicles, Lockheed Martin

    SPACELIFT WASHINGTON © 2000 by Aerospace FYI Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction allowed with permission. The information contained herein are the authors own and are not affiliated with any other society, organization, or institution. Publication does not constitute endorsement of either editorial content or sponsoring web site.
    Have information about space transportation? Email the editor at sietzen@erols.com