Open main menu
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. ELVs typically consist of several rocket stages that are discarded sequentially as their fuel is exhausted and the vehicle gains altitude and speed. Most satellites and human spacecraft are currently launched on ELVs, with advantages including the possibility of cost savings through mass production, a greater payload fraction, and extensive development history.[1]

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


Current operatorsEdit


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]




Mitsubishi Heavy Industries manufactures ELVs.[citation needed]


Russia currently operates several state-owned families of expendable launch vehicles, including Proton and Soyuz.

All of the Russian space sector has been renationalized, starting in 2013 with the formation of the United Rocket and Space Corporation to consolidate a large number of disparate companies and bureaus.[6][7][8] On 19 May 2015 State Duma passed a bill creating the Roscosmos State Corporation, further consolidating the industry.[9]

United StatesEdit

Several governmental agencies of the United States purchase ELV launches. NASA is a major customer with the Commercial Resupply Services and Commercial Crew Development programs, also launching scientific spacecraft. A state-owned ELV, the Space Launch System, is intended to being flying in 2020.[citation needed]

The United States Air Force is also an ELV customer. Both the Delta IV and Atlas V from the 1994 Evolved ELV (EELV) program remain in active service, operated by the United Launch Alliance.[10] The National Security Space Launch (NSSL) competition is currently ongoing to select EELV successors to provide assured access to space.[citation needed]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Expendable Launch Vehicles". Retrieved 2018-12-31.
  2. ^ Wall, Mike (2011-07-05). "NASA's Shuttle Program Cost $209 Billion — Was it Worth It?". 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); 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 linksEdit