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ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket today successfully launched an Air Force GPS satellite.
The article is worth reading because it does a nice job of summarizing the launch history of the Atlas 5, first introduced in 2002. The key quote, however, is this:
All of the rocket’s early flights carried commercial communications satellites, with the next few launches orbiting HellasSat-2, Rainbow 1, AMC-16 and Inmarsat-4F1. In August 2005 the sixth Atlas V embarked on the type’s first mission for the US Government, deploying NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on the first leg of its mission to the Red Planet.
In other words, the first six flights were commercial, with every flight since 2005 for either NASA or the military. What this suggests to me is that the Atlas 5 is not competitive in the commercial market. It is too expensive, and commercial customers can’t afford it. In contrast, the federal government hasn’t been interested in saving the taxpayer money for years, and pays for this overpriced rocket in order to keep its builders employed.