Lockheed Martin is expected to cancel development of the heavylift version of its Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), as a result of discussions with the USAir Force. Boeing will go ahead with development of a heavy version of its Delta IV EELV.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin were each awarded $500 million USAF contracts in 1998 to support commercial development of medium, intermediate and heavy versions of their EELVs. Now, the service has decided the demand for heavy launches will not support two competitors.

Boeing will continue refurbishment of Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg AFB, California, for EELV launches, but Lockheed Martin has been told to stop work at its Vandenberg launch site, says US Air Force acquisition chief Darleen Druyun.

Both will continue construction of competing EELV launch sites at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The Cape will be used for launches into equatorial orbits, and Vandenberg for polar launches.

"Lockheed Martin will focus on medium launches, the biggest part of the commercial market," Druyun says. The USAF EELV contract, which funds 30% of Atlas V development, is expected to be revised to account for elimination of the heavy version.

Lockheed Martin says talks with the USAF are under way, but admits the market for heavylift launches "is not huge". The company continues development of Atlas V Medium and Intermediate versions, using a common core booster and different numbers of solid rocket motors. It believes much of the projected demand for heavier launches can be met with the Intermediate version. The first Atlas V flight, likely to be an Intermediate, is set for 2002.

Boeing is developing Delta IV Medium, Medium Plus and Heavy versions, with mixes of common core boosters and solid rocket motors. The first flight, the commercial launch of a Medium Plus, is due next April from the Cape.

Boeing believes there is still demand for heavy launches, despite the collapse of the low earth orbit satellite constellation market. Two Delta IV Heavy flights are included in its USAF contract to provide 19 EELV launches between 2002 and 2006.

Source: Flight International