EELV | Delta IV, Atlas V, Falcon 9

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Product Type:

Family of expendable launch vehicles

Using Service (US):

Air Force (USAF)

Program Status:

In Production

Prime Contractors:

United Launch Alliance (ULA)
A Boeing / Lockheed Martin Joint Venture

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX)

Specifications DoD Spending FY2017 Budget

EELV Delta IV Launch Vehicle

EELV | Delta IV and Atlas V Launches 2011-2025

EELV Launches

About the EELV Program:

EELV is a U.S. Air Force program, which provides three families of launch vehicles used to carry payloads (e.g. satellites) into space. The vehicles are expendable (designed to be used only once). The families of launch vehicles used are the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV and Atlas V and the Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Falcon 9, which was certified for National Security Space (NSS) launches in 2015.

The EELV system includes launch vehicles, launch capability, a standard payload interface, support systems, mission integration, flight instrumentation and range interfaces, special studies, post-flight data evaluation and analysis, mission assurance, assured access, system/process and reliability improvements, training, and technical support. The system also includes launch site/operations activities, activities in support of assured access, systems integration and tests, and other related support activities.

The EELV program provides the DoD, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and other government and commercial purchasers with launch services for medium- to heavy-lift class satellites. From December 2006 to May 2015, ULA a Boeing and Lockheed Martin joint venture, was the sole provider of EELV launch services. The Air Force announced on May 26, 2015 that the SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch System had been certified for NSS launches with the Falcon 9 v1.1 as the baseline. SpaceX was now eligible for awards of National Security Space (NSS) launch missions and in April 2016, the company was awarded a $82.7 million firm-fixed price, standalone contract for the launch of the second GPS III satellite. A Falcon 9 v1.1 commercial launch experienced an in-flight mishap resulting in loss of vehicle on June 28, 2015. The 45th Space Wing authorized the return to flight operations on December 1, 2015. SpaceX returned to flight on December 22, 2015 with their new Falcon 9 Full Thrust (FT) launch vehicle, which has replaced the Falcon 9 v1.1.

The EELV program funds a total of 161 launches including launch vehicles and launch services. Air Force missions make up 105 of the 161 launches. The remaining missions include funding and quantities from other sources including the NRO, the U.S. Navy, and one purchase by the Australian Government. Navy funding is for the launch of Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellites.

As of December 2015, there have been 92 successful EELV launches (59 NSS and 33 NASA / Commercial).

Delta IV Launch Vehicle:

Developed in partnership with the U.S. Air Force EELV program, the ULA's Delta IV Family of launch vehicles combines design simplicity, manufacturing efficiency, and streamlined mission and vehicle integration to launch high-priority Air Force, National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), NASA, and commercial payloads to orbit. Operational Delta IV launch pads are located on both the East and West Coast with Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and Space Launch Complex-6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Delta IV launch system comes in five variants: the Delta IV Medium (Delta IV M); three variants of the Delta IV Medium-Plus (Delta IV M+); and the Delta IV Heavy (Delta IV H). Each variant is comprised of a common booster core powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68 main engine; a cryogenic upper-stage powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10B-2; and either a 4 or 5 meter composite payload fairing.

Atlas V Launch Vehicle:

The ULA's Atlas V Family of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV) was first deployed in August 2002. Atlas V vehicles are launched from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, thus providing launch pads on both U.S. coasts. The Atlas V has followed a carefully executed program of incremental improvements, which has resulted in a 100% mission success rate. The Atlas V Family provides the latest evolutionary versions of the Atlas launch system. It includes the flight-proven Atlas V-400 and Atlas V-500 vehicles. Atlas V uses a standard common booster core (powered by the RD-180 engine produced by Russian company NPO Energomash); up to five solid rocket boosters; either a single-engine Centaur or a dual-engine Centaur upper stage powered by the AeroJet Rocketdyne RL10A-4-2 engine; and either the Atlas heritage 4.2 meter payload fairing or the 5.4 meter Oerlikon.

Due to the Russian intervention in Ukraine and the subsequent worsening of relations between the United States and Russia, the U.S. Air Force is currently funding the development of a U.S. replacement for the russian-built RD-180 rocket engine. The Air Force issued a request for information (RFI) on August 21, 2014 and awarded development contracts to multiple companies in early 2016. Likely replacements for the RD-180 are the Aerojet Rocketdyne AR1, Blue Origin's BE-4, or a solid fuel solution from Orbital ATK. The Air Force supports the continued use of RD-180 engines until a capable alternative is developed.

Falcon 9 Launch System:

The SpaceX Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket designed and manufactured for the reliable and safe transport of satellites and the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. Falcon 9 was designed from the ground up and is the first rocket completely developed in the 21st century. With nine first-stage engines, it can safely complete its mission even in the event of an engine shutdown. The Falcon 9 made history in 2012 when it delivered the Dragon spacecraft into orbit for rendezvous with the International Space Station making SpaceX the first commercial company ever to visit the station.

The Falcon 9's first stage incorporates nine SpaceX Merlin rocket engines and aluminum-lithium alloy tanks containing liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellant. The interstage is a composite structure that connects the first and second stages and holds the release and separation system. The second stage is powered by a single SpaceX Merlin Vacuum (MVac) engine and delivers the payload to the desired orbit.

The latest Falcon 9 rocket is the Full Thrust (FT) variant, which replaced the Falcon 9 v1.1 in 2015.

Launch Vehicles (past):

In the past, EELV launch services were provided by Titan II, Delta II, Atlas II, and Titan IV launch vehicle systems.

Price/Unit Cost:

The average unit cost of a launch vehicle is $117.65 million in FY 2016.

Total Cost - Life of Program (LoP):

The total procurement cost of the EELV program is $58.80 billion (estimated by the DoD) + $3.64 billion in research and development (RDT&E) funds. This adds up to a total estimated program cost of $62.44 billion (numbers are aggregated annual funds spent over the life of the program and no price/inflation adjustment was made).


The EELV program provides Delta IV and Atlas V launch vehicles and services for medium and heavy class satellite payloads.

FY 2016 DoD Program:

FY 2016 procurement funds in the amount of $1,250.9 million will purchase 4 launch vehicles + fund associated launch services and support activities.

FY 2017 DoD Program:

FY 2017 procurement funds in the amount of $1,506.4 million have been requested for the purchase of 5 launch vehicles and associated launch services and support activities. FY 17 EELV funding will be used to acquire launch services to provide critical space support required to satisfy DoD warfighter, national security, and other Government space lift missions while fostering interagency and commercial cooperation. Launch services include but are not limited to launch vehicle manufacturing, mission success incentives,recurring costs for Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practice, EELV secondary payload adapter, launch propellants, independent mission assurance, evaluation and certification of potential New Entrants, early integration activities and analysis/support, and any other related studies to support mission requirements. The Air Force is responsible for funding its own missions. All non-USAF EELV launch services are funded within their respective entities (e.g. NRO, Navy, etc.).

For more information, click to see the FY 2017 USAF EELV Launch Vehicle Budget and the FY 2017 USAF EELV Launch Capability Budget.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), United Launch Alliance (ULA),
SpaceX, AeroJet Rocketdyne, and Orbital ATK.

Last Update: August 15, 2016.

By Joakim Kasper Oestergaard Balle /// (

External Resources:

ULA: Delta IV Launch Vehicle
ULA: Atlas V Launch Vehicle

SpaceX: Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle

YouTube: Delta IV & Atlas V | YouTube Videos
YouTube: SpaceX Falcon 9 | YouTube Videos

Download: Delta IV / Atlas V | Product Card
Download: Falcon 9 | User's Guide

Total EELV Program Cost:

  $62.44 billion  ($58.80B procurement + $3.64B RDT&E)

EELV Procurement Objective:

  161 launch vehicles

EELV U.S. Defense Budget Charts:

DoD Spending on the EELV Program in FY 2013, FY 2014, FY 2015, FY 2016 and FY 2017
DoD Purchases of Launch Vehicles in FY 2013, FY 2014, FY 2015, FY 2016 and FY 2017
Defense Budget Data

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DoD Spending, Procurement and RDT&E: FY 2013/14/15 + Budget for FYs 2016 + 2017

DoD Defense Spending, Procurement, Modifications, Spares, and RDT&E for the EELV Program

Download Official U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Budget Data:

Purchases of EELV Launch Vehicles (USAF) Purchases of EELV Infrastructure (USAF)
RDT&E: EELV Program - EMD (USAF)

Specifications: EELV (Family of Launch Vehicles)

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Specifications | Delta IV Launch Vehicle

Primary Function: Launch vehicle
Prime Contractor: United Launch Alliance (ULA) - a Boeing / Lockheed Martin Joint Venture
Height: 207 to 236 ft (63 to 72 m)
Diameter: 16.4 ft (5 m)
Weight: 550,000 to 1,617,000 lbs (249,500 to 733,400 kg)
Stages: 2
First Stage: 1-3 common booster cores
First Stage Engine: AeroJet Rocketdyne RS-68 liquid oxygen/hydrogen engine
Second Stage: Cryogenic
Second Stage Engine: 1x AeroJet Rocketdyne RL10B-2
Payload GEO:
Medium: 9,480 lbs (4,300 kg)
M+ (4.2): 13,290 lbs (6,030 kg)
M+ (5.4): 15,470 lbs (7,020 kg)
Heavy: 28,620 lbs (12,980 kg)
Payload LEO:
Medium: 20,170 lbs (9,150 kg)
M+ (4.2): 26,980 lbs (12,240 kg)
M+ (5.4): 29,450 lbs (13,360 kg)
Heavy: 49,740 lbs (22,560 kg)
Guidance System: L-3 Communications Redundant Inertial Flight Control Assembly (RIFCA)
Price/Unit Cost: Unknown
First Launch: November 20, 2002

Launch Vehicle Specifications | Atlas V

Primary Function: Launch vehicle
Prime Contractor: United Launch Alliance (ULA) - a Boeing / Lockheed Martin Joint Venture
Height: 191.3 ft (58.3 m)
Diameter: 12.5 ft (3.8 m)
Weight: 737,400 lbs (334,500 kg)
Stages: 2
First Stage: 1-5 common booster cores
First Stage Engine: NPO Energomash RD-180 engine (pending replacement)
Second Stage: Centaur
Second Stage Engine: 1x or 2x AeroJet Rocketdyne RL10A-4-2
Payload GEO:
V-401: 10,470 lbs (4,750 kg)
V-431: 16,970 lbs (7,700 kg)
V-551: 19,260 lbs (8,900 kg)
V-HLV: 28,660 lbs (13,000 kg)
Payload LEO:
V-401: 20,650 lbs (9,370 kg)
V-431: 33,650 lbs (15,130 kg)
V-551: 40,800 lbs (18,510 kg)
V-HLV: 64,820 lbs (29,400 kg)
Guidance System: Honeywell Fault Tolerant Inertial Navigation Unit (FTINU)
and Redundant Rate Gyro Unit (RRGU)
Price/Unit Cost: Unknown
First Launch: August 21, 2002

Launch Vehicle Specifications | Falcon 9

Primary Function: Launch vehicle
Prime Contractor: Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX)
Height: FT: 229.7 ft (70.0 m) - including both stages, interstage and fairing
v1.1: 224.4 ft (68.4 m) - including both stages, interstage and fairing
v1.0: 173.9 ft (53.0 m) - including both stages, interstage and fairing
Diameter: 12.0 ft (3.7 m) - fairing: 17.1 ft (5.2 m)
FT: 1,210,450 lbs (549,060 kg)
v1.1: 1,115,200 lbs (505,855 kg)
v1.0: 735,000 lbs (333,396 kg)
Stages: 2
First Stage Engine:
FT: 9x SpaceX Merlin 1D+
v1.1: 9x SpaceX Merlin 1D
v1.0: 9x SpaceX Merlin 1C
Second Stage Engine:
1x SpaceX Merlin Vacuum (MVac) engine
Payload GEO:
FT: 18,300 lbs (8,300 kg)
v1.1: 10,690 lbs (4,850 kg)
v1.0: 10,010 lbs (4,540 kg)
Payload LEO:
FT: 50,265 lbs (22,800 kg)
v1.1: 28,990 lbs (13,150 kg)
v1.0: 23,040 lbs (10,450 kg)
Guidance System: Unknown
Price/Unit Cost: $62 million per launch according to SpaceX
First Launch:
FT: December 22, 2015
v1.1: September 29, 2013
v1.0: June 4, 2010

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