If You have around $109 million do not hesitate to enter rocketbuilder.com website and order today your Atlas V from United Launch Alliance - reliable partner You can trust !
These should be a motto for United Launch Alliance; company has just opened new website, where everyone is able to configure own Atlas V rocket as easy as new car on Dealer’s site. It is first time, when launch service provider decided to offer their launch vehicle on market directly in the World Wide Web. This step is sign that approach represented by space industry changed - launch vehicles and delivering payload to space is now more available than ever before and space segment of economy entered into our daily life with spectacular dynamic. For sure it will stay there forever.
So what ULA offers for $109 million, which is $50 million more than Falcon-9 FT by SpaceX? For the moment it is simplified configuration (401) of Atlas V without additional boosters, with single engine in Centaur upper stage and 4 meter wide payload fairing. Designated orbit is limited only to GTO (other options are available with extra fee) with possible launch even in first quarter of 2017. Of course price is not covering any Public Relations support, technical support (participation in Vehicle Product Acceptance Reviews), mission supervising or renting offices in ULA facilities for launch campaign. Interesting feature appears, when we finish configuration. United Launch Alliance offers overview of "added value" savings offered by Atlas V. For example lower cost of insurance, which is evaluated basing on reliability of the launch vehicle, or costs of possible delay causing necessity of storing satellite (average time of delay for United Launch Alliance is only two weeks comparing to average 4.5 months quoted by Tony Bruno, CEO of ULA, during official presentation of rocketbuilder.com on November 30, 2016). This is of course continuation of ULA story, which started long time ago. Higher costs of vehicles, Company explains with higher reliability and experience in delivering cargo to orbit. Of course it is truth, but still paying $50 million is worth risk of possible (possible, not sure) costs of storing satellite.
Is it beginning of advertisement campaign of ULA before next attempt of dominating commercial market with Atlas V? From the point of view of ULA it is good moment - SpaceX, main competitor on American market is still suffering delays (after accident on June 2015, Company had another problem with exploding Falcon-9 with Amos-6 on launch site) and another company, Orbital ATK is going to offer modified Antares 230 after successful launch of Cygnus OA-5 on October 2016. It is sure, that SpaceX, even if will explain Falcon-9/Amos-6 casus, will fight with delay in launch schedule for few more months. Even if Atlas V will not conquer the market, it will losing ground without a fight.
Atlas V avoid any problems for a long time and even small issues with Centaur upper stage during mission of Cygnus OA-6 on March 23, 2016 paradoxically strengthened position of ULA showing how dependable is Atlas V/Centaur combination. It is worth to remember about problems with Chinese and Russian launch vehicles: Long March 4C with Gaofen-10 and last Soyuz-U/Progress MS-04 accident. Both countries were offering launches with fraction of ULA costs, but all in all showed, that they are far from level of reliability offered by United Launch Alliance. Maybe this is last chance for aging Atlas V and create good position for the company on the market before entering market with Vulcan in 2019, which cost will be comparable to Atlas V (about $99 million) with similar configuration as 401 configuration.