Lockheed Martin and International Launch Services launched the first Atlas V booster from Cape Canaveral on 21 August, carrying the Hot Bird 6 communications satellite into transfer orbit.

It was the first launch of a vehicle built under the US Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) programme. Boeing's Delta IV EELV is due to make its first flight, on a commercial mission, in October. The Atlas V, which will succeed Atlas II and III, has seven US Air Force EELV launch commitments and four firm commercial launches, with four options. There are seven Atlas IIs and seven Atlas IIIs still to fly.

The maiden EELV launch comes as Boeing and Lockheed Martin are reported to have asked the US government for $100 million each to maintain their Delta IV and Atlas V businesses, respectively, as the commercial launcher market shrinks.

Source: Flight International