Alliant Techsystems, which leads one of the four contractor teams bidding for the US Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) programme, has signed a memo- randum of understanding with Space Systems/Loral to launch up to ten satellites between 2002 and 2006, if it emerges as the competition winner.

Lockheed Martin, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing and Alliant had been awarded initial $30 million contracts to design versions of the EELV. The first of a family of EELVs may fly in 2001. Two firms will be selected in December for the pre-engineering manufacturing phase of the programme, with the $1.8 billion prime contract to be awarded in 1998.

Three versions of the EELV, using combinations of common stages, will meet the US Air Force's launch requirements after 2001, eventually replacing Titan, Atlas and Delta boosters. The payload capability of the EELV family will range from 1,130kg to 20,400kg to low-Earth orbit. It is hoped that the new vehicle will reduce launch costs by up to 50% and form the basis for a commercial fleet.

Alliant's EELV-based two-model Low Cost Launch System proposal uses Titan 4 solid-rocket-booster technology, including the new Solid Rocket Motor Upgrade.

Source: Flight International