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EELV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle

EELV Logo– The EELV program is a funded U.S. Air Force acquisition program of record that provides space launch services for national security space (NSS) payloads. The EELV program is in the portfolio of the Program Executive Officer (PEO) for Space at the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC). Program requirements for the EELV program, including reliability, accuracy, and standard interface, are specified in the EELV Capability Production Document (CPD), validated by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) in 2016.

After many years of government-funded studies on the subject of modernized launch vehicle systems, the Air Force finally developed a "roadmap" in 1994 for the acquisition of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELVs) to replace the DELTA IIs, ATLAS IIs, and TITAN IVs then in use at Cape Canaveral.

As of 2015 the EELV program was actively pursuing a competitive scenario for launch acquisitions, but the launch industry is currently undergoing numerous changes, and the makeup of the industry in the future is uncertain. One of the Air Force’s long-term goals for the EELV program is to have at least two certified launch providers able to compete for the full range of national security launches. Although additional new entrants may be able to compete in the future, it is unlikely that others will be ready to compete before Phase 2.

The EELV competition was expected to produce the next generation of launch vehicles to replace all medium to heavy launchers, Lockheed Martin's Atlas, Titan II and Titan IV series, and McDonnell Douglas's Delta series, with a single family of vehicles capable of launching medium and heavy payloads into orbit at a significantly lower cost. The EELV was expected handle the bulk of the U.S. government's launch requirements after the year 2000 and was also expected to be used for commercial applications.

Unlike earlier efforts to develop a new generation of space launch vehicles from a "clean sheet of paper," the EELV concept intended to capitalize on proven hardware found in the then current generation of DELTA II, ATLAS II/CENTAUR, and TITAN IV vehicles. The goal was the creation of a cost-efficient and reliable family (or families) of "right size" spacelifters based on standardized fairings, liquid core vehicles, upper stages, and solid rockets. Standard payload interfaces were touted as another way to save money and improve efficiency, though success in that area remained to be seen.

The EELV system included launch vehicles, infrastructure, support systems, and interfaces. The contractor was standardizing payload interfaces, launch pads, and infrastructure so that all configurations of each contractor's EELV family can be launched from the same pad and payloads can be interchanged between vehicles in the same class (i.e., medium, intermediate, or heavy). The EELV program would maintain current mass-to-orbit capability while increasing launch rate and decreasing costs. Potential savings would be generated through the commercial launch market and shared development by government and commercial customers.

EELV was important not only to reducing the launch costs of the Department of Defense, but also to the continued world-wide competitiveness of the US commercial launch industry. However, the Committee was concerned that the Department was focusing too narrowly on its national security requirements and not adequately reflecting the needs of the US commercial space launch industry. For example, in order to meet its projected reductions in life cycle costs, the EELV needed to capture at least 15 percent of the commercial market. This would be difficult to achieve since projections showed that the EELV would not be able to meet the requirements of as much as 42 percent of the estimated commercial market. If that was the case, then the Air Force will have developed a new family of launch vehicles that would be primarily used only for national security payloads, resulting in higher overhead costs to DoD, while missing an opportunity to maximize the competitive posture of US industry.

ULA has a big factory down in Decatur, Alabama. Senator Richard Shelby is from Alabama. Shelby was a loyal supporter of ULA, and attempted to shoehorn in money to buy the RD-180 engines from Russia, against the wishes of Senator McCain and the rest of the Armed Services Committee.

The FY 2016 NDAA recognized that a small number of Russian engines could be needed to ensure a near-term competitive environment. That includes five engines that ULA currently has in its possession, which are not limited by the sanctions, since they were fully paid for prior to the Russian invasion of Crimea. Instead of setting those engines aside for national security launches, ULA rushed to assign them to non-national security launches that are unrestricted in their use of Russian engines. ULA’s use of these tactics artificially created a need for relief from legislative restrictions on its ability to continue using RD-180—relief that, with the DoD’s active assistance, ULA’s actively sought in the fiscal year 2016 omnibus appropriations bill.

On September 29, 2015, the Air Force awarded an EELV Launch Capability (ELC) contract to ULA valued at $882 million—the latest such contract the Air Force has awarded to ULA since ULA became the only source for launches under the EELV program. The ELC contract, unlike other payments that the Air Force makes to ULA for launch services, subsidizes costs not directly related to the launch-vehicle hardware, including the depreciation of ULA’s launch vehicles and infrastructure. In paying ULA for such fixed launch costs and executing the EELV program under a cost-plus contract, the DoD has reimbursed ULA for allowable, reasonable, and allocable costs for its launches, while requiring ULA to reimburse it on a per-launch basis for launches that ULA sells to its non-DoD customers. To do so, ULA has had to maintain sufficient cost accounting systems within the company.

By 2016 the Air Force was working to introduce competition into the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. For almost 10 years, the EELV program had only one company capable of providing launches. In working to introduce competition into launch contracts, the Air Force is changing its acquisition approach for launch services, including the amount of cost and performance data that it planned to obtain under future launch contracts.

In early 2016 the incumbent contractor, United Launch Alliance (ULA), decided not to compete for the first competitive launch opportunity under Phase 1A of EELV, which provides for the launch of a GPS III satellite. ULA stated it did not have any Atlas engines available to bid in order to submit a timely proposal. ULA also asserted that the Phase 1A launch is basically a “lowest price, technically acceptable” competition, unsuitable for launch contracts..." Under Solicitation Number FA8811-16-R-000X, released 14 March 2017, Air Force Space Command - Space and Missile Systems Center draft solicitation ws to implement the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) strategy to transition from the use of "non-allied" [aka Russian RD-180] engines and to implement affordable assured access to space via sustainable competition with commercial providers. The strategy invests in new and/or upgraded commercial launch solutions that also meet National Security Space (NSS) requirements. These launch system investments include efforts required to complete the transition off non-allied engines and build upon the Air Force's Booster Propulsion Technology Maturation efforts started in early 2015 and the Rocket Propulsion System investments awarded in early 2016. The Government’s objectives were to develop Payload Category A, B, and C launch system prototypes, through shared investment with industry partners that will lead to EELV certified launch systems capable of providing launch services for all EELV-class National Security Space (NSS) missions. Development is defined as all activities from initial concept up to, but not including, production. This could include full development of a new launch system or modifications to an existing launch system, including launch infrastructure. Development includes all efforts leading up to and including EELV certification (and the validation of all NRE work) to meet the full range of EELV mass-to-orbit requirements

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