The Rockets’ Red Ink: from EELV to a Competitive Space Launch Future


Launch, Deliver… Compete?

May 13/19: NROL-68 United Launch Services won a $149.4 million modification in support of National Security Launch delta IV heavy launch services. The modification is for the National Reconnaissance Office mission NROL-68, the second of three missions awarded to ULA under the Launch Vehicle Production Services contract in October 2018. The deal provides for a Delta IV heavy-lift rocket variant for the US Air Force’s National Security Space Launch program. ULA was awarded three NRO missions in October— NROL-91, NROL-68, and NROL-70 — scheduled to launch in fiscal year 2022, 2023 and 2024 respectively. Work under the modification will take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and company sites in Colorado and Alabama. The scheduled completion date is in December 2022.

For more on this and other stories, please consider purchasing a membership.
If you are already a subscriber, login to your account.
Boeing Delta IV Heavy (click to view full) The EELV program was designed to reduce the cost of government space launches through greater contractor competition, and modifiable rocket families whose system requirements emphasized simplicity, commonality, standardization, new applications of existing technology, streamlined manufacturing capabilities, and more efficient launch-site processing. Result: the Delta IV (Boeing) and Atlas V (Lockheed Martin) heavy rockets. Paradoxically, that very program may have forced the October 2006 merger of Boeing & Lockheed Martin’s rocket divisions. Crosslink Magazine’s Winter 2004 article “EELV: The Next Stage of Space Launch” offers an excellent briefing that covers EELV’s program innovations and results, while a detailed National Taxpayer’s Union letter to Congress takes a much less positive view. This DID Spotlight article looks at the Delta IV and Atlas V rockets, emerging challengers like SpaceX and the new competition framework, and the US government contracts placed since the merger that formed the United Launch Alliance. The EELV System When comparing launch vehicles, note that Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) between 1,240 – 22,240 miles above the Earth’s surface is preferred for high-end satellites. It’s much easier to lift objects into Low Earth-orbit (LEO), up to 1,240 miles above the Earth’s surface. On […]

One Source: Hundreds of programs; Thousands of links, photos, and analyses

DII brings a complete collection of articles with original reporting and research, and expert analyses of events to your desktop – no need for multiple modules, or complex subscriptions. All supporting documents, links, & appendices accompany each article.


  • Save time
  • Eliminate your blind spots
  • Get the big picture, quickly
  • Keep up with the important facts
  • Stay on top of your projects or your competitors


  • Coverage of procurement and doctrine issues
  • Timeline of past and future program events
  • Comprehensive links to other useful resources