Boeing Space and Communications expects to phase out the Delta III launch vehicle in 2005 as the next generation Delta IV establishes itself in the launcher market.

The Delta III has made just three flights, two of which were failures. It has no launches booked for this year and four or five in 2002, says Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing Space and Communications. "We will continue to sell it until no-one wants to buy it," he says, conceding that in 2005 "we expect to see it phased out".

Boeing started work on the Delta III programme before the US Air Force launched its Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), for which Boeing subsequently developed the Delta IV, which will make its first flight late this year.

The Delta III was always a "transitional vehicle", says Albaugh. "We'll get our money out" and move on to the Delta IV, he says, adding that the new vehicle incorporates elements of its predecessor.

The Delta IV will allow Boeing to maintain its position in the launch market, which is likely to experience overcapacity in the geostationary orbit satellite sector in 2002/3. "There will be a shake-out in the market," says Albaugh, predicting that the more reliable and cost-effective Delta IV will allow Boeing to ride the storm.

Boeing also predicts a good market for the heavy version of its Delta IV. The Delta IV will be the only heavy launch vehicle capable of lifting 13.1t, in the USA, allowing it to capture US heavy and dual manifesting business, he says.

Meanwhile, Boeing's recent move to integrate its Delta II, III and IV activities will allow the manufacturer to "cut quite a bit of costs", says Albaugh. "We always knew we were going to do it," he says. The integration has resulted in 400 to 500 job losses on the Delta programmes, but as Boeing has an open requisition for 2,000 people, these can be deployed elsewhere.

Source: Flight International