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Air Force opens door
Plan changes original strategy on development
of the nation's newest launch vehicle, and introduces
competition across its life cycle

The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program acquisition approach has undergone a significant change in overall strategy by opening doors to award two contracts for its development.

In November, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology Noel Longuemare approved an Air Force plan intended to introduce competition across the life of the program.

"This (acquisition) decision changes the original strategy that was to award only one EELV development contract by mid-1998," said Col. Richard McKinney, EELV system program director.

"This represents a significant step in implementing the president's 1994 National Space Transportation Policy, and it supports the goals and objectives of the 1996 National Space Policy," McKinney said.

EELV's objective is to improve the affordability and operability of the nation's expendable space launch systems beyond the turn of the century. It will be the successor to the current fleet of medium- and heavy-launch systems (Delta, Atlas and Titan) with a single, modular family of launch vehicles.

The Air Force expects significant cost savings by standardizing to one family of medium- and heavy-lift launch vehicles, improving ground operations, using existing and evolved system components and streamlining acquisition and manufacturing.

EELV is expected to reduce the nation's space launch costs at least 25 percent over existing systems while improving DOD's ability to meet warfighter operability requirements, according to system program officials.

The system also promises to significantly enhance U.S. ability to compete in the future international commercial launch market.

The new approach was the result of a six-month Air Force, Department of Transportation, and industry review that confirmed the commercial launch market grew much faster than originally forecasted three years ago. During the next decade, projections show the demands for commercial space launch exceeding government requirements.

Pentagon and Air Force officials see this as an opportunity to partner with industry and develop a national launch system supporting both government and commercial requirements. The goal is to reduce the government's overall launch costs by more than 25 percent. It also supports the Air Force goal of a cost avoidance of $5 billion to $10 billion in program life-cycle costs through 2020.

The strategy change also signals a greater achievement of acquisition reform initiatives. By partnering with industry, the Air Force hopes to ensure that the EELV contractors have maximum flexibility to use the best commercial business practices in both system development and payload launches.

Lockheed Martin Corporation, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Littleton, Colo., and the Boeing Company, Boeing Expendable Launch Systems, Huntington Beach, Calif., each have EELV Pre-Engineering and Manufacturing Development contracts. They must complete this phase of the program before the EMD contract awards are made.

Reported by Chet DelSignore, Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs

February '98 Issue -Leading Edge command magazine

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