Expendable launch system

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A Delta IV Heavy rocket (left) and a Proton-M rocket (right)

An expendable launch system (or expendable launch vehicle/ELV) is a launch vehicle that uses disposable components to carry a payload into space. Vehicles typically consist of several rocket stages that are discarded sequentially as their fuel is exhausted and the vehicle gains altitude and speed. Currently, satellites and human spacecraft are mainly launched on expendable launchers. ELV advantages include the possibility of cost savings through mass production and a greater payload fraction.[1]

In contrast, a few companies are developing reusable launch systems intended to cut costs. The now-retired Space Shuttle was intended to reduce launch costs through reuse, but was not successful.[2]

Current operators[edit]


Arianespace produces, operates and markets the Ariane launcher family.[3] Arianespace's 23 shareholders represent scientific, technical, financial and political entities from 10 different European countries.[4][5]

In 2003 Arianespace joined with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to create the Launch Services Alliance.


Beginning in 2013, the Russian government began a renationalization of the Russian space sector. Among the actions taken was the formation of the United Rocket and Space Corporation (Russian: Объединенная ракетно-космическая корпорация) to consolidate a large number of disparate companies and bureaus.[6][7] The efforts have continued into 2014.[8] On 19 May 2015 State Duma passed a bill on a creation of Roscosmos State Corporation, further consolidating the industry.[9]

Since 1995 Khrunichev's Proton rocket is marketed through International Launch Services while the Soyuz rocket is marketed via Starsem. Energia builds the Soyuz rocket and owns part of the Sea Launch project which flies the Ukrainian Zenit rocket.

United States[edit]

NASA Commercial Resupply Services program.

In 1996 the United States government ordered the development of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV) to compete for launch contracts and provide assured access to space. Both the Delta IV and Atlas V remain in active service, operated by the United Launch Alliance.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Expendable Launch Vehicles". spacetethers.com. Retrieved 2018-12-31.
  2. ^ Wall, Mike (2011-07-05). "NASA's Shuttle Program Cost $209 Billion — Was it Worth It?". Space.com. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  3. ^ Arianespace: milestones Accessed 26 April 2017
  4. ^ Arianespace: shareholders Archived 2014-10-08 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ company-profile (appears to give different shareholdings from those in main text); arianespace.com Accessed 26 April 2017
  6. ^ Messier, Doug (2013-08-30). "Rogozin: Russia to Consolidate Space Sector into Open Joint Stock Company". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2014-09-11.
  7. ^ Messier, Doug (2013-10-09). "Rogozin Outlines Plans for Consolidating Russia's Space Industry". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2014-09-11.
  8. ^ Messier, Doug (2014-01-05). "Big Changes Ahead for the Russia Space Program in 2014". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2014-09-11.
  9. ^ "Draft Law on setting up public corporation "Roscosmos" unanimously supported by the RF DUMA" (Press release). S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia. 20 May 2015. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  10. ^ Boeing, Lockheed Martin to Form Launch Services Joint Venture | SpaceRef - Your Space Reference

External links[edit]