The EELV was the last big military space contract of the 20th century. The Air Force decision was believed heavily influenced by industrial base issues, as the loser under the original scenario would have, in essence, been driven from the launch business in the winner-take-all structure. It was also believed that the different design features of both firm's configurations each had merit, under the Air Force's pre-Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) review, underway since last December, when the military chose the two companies as the finalists.
But exactly how the Air Force will achieve its 25 to 50% reduction in launch costs by sustaining two companies along the military launch route isn't clear. What is clear, however, is that both rocket families will need plenty of commercial customers to be truly viable. The EELV program was announced in 1994 as a plan to replace the existing Delta, Atlas, and Titan rocket families with an all-new expendable fleet, drastically reducing the cost of sending military satellites into space. First launch of the medium vehicle prototype is planned for 2002, with full operational capability by 2006.