An Atlas V 551 launches the Pluto New Horizons probe toward the fringes of the Solar System (Photo: NASA)
An Atlas V 5XX launch vehicle, showing the various modules which make up the vehicle (Photo: NASA)
Comparison of the smallest Atlas V (401 model) with the largest Atlas V (551 model) (Photo: NASA)
Lockheed-Martin (LM) has a problem. Their Atlas V orbital launch system, while very popular with the US military, at around US$225M per launch is too expensive to compete effectively for commercial missions, whose launch costs are generally about half that amount. As part of an effort to reposition their services, LM is now offering a 100 percent money-back or reflight guarantee if the launch vehicle causes mission failure. The guarantee covers the cost of the vehicle launch, but not the cost of the satellite.
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