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National Security Space Launch

CAPE CANAVERAL AFS, Fla. -- A Delta IV Heavy rocket lifts off late in the evening of Nov. 10 from Launch Pad 37B here, marking the first operational use of this configuration. Payload for the mission was DSP-23, the last of the Defense Support Program satellites. The 45th Space Wing's support helped ensure public safety and mission success via radar, telemetry, communications and meteorological systems.
ULA photo by Carleton Bailie

A Boeing Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle lifts off from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Originally known as the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, or EELV program, the National Security Space Launch program is designed to improve our nation's access to space by making space launch vehicles more affordable and reliable. The program is replacing the existing fleet of launch systems with three families of launch vehicles, each using common components and common infrastructure. The vehicles are the Boeing Delta IV Medium and Delta IV Heavy, Lockheed Martin's Atlas V and SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. The NSSL program's operability improvements over current systems include a standard payload interface, standardized launch pads and increased off-pad processing. (U.S. Air Force photo)


Spacelift is identified by Joint Publication 3-14, Space Operations, as the ability to deliver payloads (satellites or other materials) into space. Assured access to space includes spacelift operations and range operations. Air Force Space Command conducts these operations as a Service function that supports other Services and the joint force.

The Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., manages the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program, formerly the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. 

The NSSL program is designed to continue to procure affordable National Security Space launch services, maintain assured access to space, and ensure mission success with viable domestic launch service providers. The program is driven to provide launch flexibility that meets warfighter needs while leveraging the robust U.S. commercial launch industry, which has grown significantly during the past five to seven years. The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act directed the name change from EELV to NSSL to reflect consideration of both reusable and expendable launch vehicles during future solicitations. The NSSL/EELV program, encompassing over 100 National Security Space launches in support of the Air Force, the National Reconnaissance Office and the U.S. Navy, has not suffered a launch failure since its inception in 1999. 

The NSSL program procures launch services from United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX). ULA is a joint venture between two contractors formed in 2006.  Both ULA and SpaceX produce and launch various rocket vehicles capable of orbiting spacecraft. SpaceX and ULA maintain space launch complexes at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif. 

(Current as of July 2019)