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An expendable launch system (or expendable launch vehicle/ELV) is a launch vehicle that can be launched only once, after which its components are either destroyed during reentry or discarded in space. ELVs typically consist of several rocket stages that are discarded sequentially as their fuel is exhausted and the vehicle gains altitude and speed. As of October 2019, most satellites and human spacecraft are currently launched on ELVs. ELVs are simpler in design than reusable launch systems and therefore may have a lower production cost. Furthermore, an ELV can use its entire fuel supply to accelerate its payload, offering greater payloads. ELVs are proven technology in widespread use for many decades.
ELVs are usable only once, and therefore have a significantly higher per-launch cost than modern (SpaceX or post-STS) reusable vehicles. New reusable launch systems under development by private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin have the potential to obsolete many existing ELVs due to the lower per-launch costs of reusable rockets.
Arianespace SA is a European company founded in 1980 as the world's first commercial launch service provider. It undertakes the operation and marketing of the Ariane programme. The company offers a number of different launch vehicles: the heavy-lift Ariane 5 for dual launches to geostationary transfer orbit, the Soyuz-2 as a medium-lift alternative, and the solid-fueled Vega for lighter payloads.As of May 2017[update], Arianespace had launched more than 550 satellites in 254 launches over 36 years (236 Ariane missions minus the first 8 flights handled by CNES, 17 Soyuz-2 missions and 9 Vega missions). The first commercial flight managed by the new entity was Spacenet F1 launched on 23 May 1984. Arianespace uses the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana as its main launch site. Through shareholding in Starsem, it can also offer commercial Soyuz launches from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. It has its headquarters in Évry-Courcouronnes, Essonne, France.
Japan launched its first satellite, Ohsumi, in 1970, using ISAS' L-4S rocket. Prior to the merger, ISAS used small solid-fueled launch vehicles, while NASDA developed larger liquid-fueled launchers. In the beginning, NASDA used licensed American models. The first model of liquid-fuelled launch vehicle indigenously developed in Japan was the H-II, introduced in 1994. However, at the end of the 1990s, with two H-II launch failures, Japanese rocket technology began to face criticism.
Japan's first space mission under JAXA, an H-IIA rocket launch on 29 November 2003, ended in failure due to stress problems. After a 15-month hiatus, JAXA performed a successful launch of an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Center, placing a satellite into orbit on 26 February 2005.
To be able to launch smaller mission on JAXA developed a new solid-fueled rocket, the Epsilon as a replacement to the retired M-V. The maiden flight successfully happened in 2013. So far, the rocket has flown four times without any launch failures.
In January 2017, JAXA attempted and failed to put a miniature satellite into orbit atop one of its SS520 series rockets. A second attempt on 2 February 2018 was successful, putting a four kilogram CubeSat into Earth orbit. The rocket, known as the SS-520-5, is the world's smallest orbital launcher.In January 2021, JAXA shipped an H3 rocket to Tanegashima Space Center to begin launch trials, in an effort to phase out and replace the H-IIA series.
Roscosmos uses a family of several launch rockets, the most famous of them being the R-7, commonly known as the Soyuz rocket that is capable of launching about 7.5 tons into low Earth orbit (LEO). The Proton rocket (or UR-500K) has a lift capacity of over 20 tons to LEO. Smaller rockets include Rokot and other Stations.Currently rocket development encompasses both a new rocket system, Angara, as well as enhancements of the Soyuz rocket, Soyuz-2 and Soyuz-2-3. Two modifications of the Soyuz, the Soyuz-2.1a and Soyuz-2.1b have already been successfully tested, enhancing the launch capacity to 8.5 tons to LEO.
Several governmental agencies of the United States purchase ELV launches. NASA is a major customer with the Commercial Resupply Services and Commercial Crew Development programs, also launching scientific spacecraft. A state-owned ELV, the Space Launch System was, as of 2019, intended to be flying in 2020 or 2021.
The United States Air Force is also an ELV customer. Both the Delta IV and Atlas V from the 1994 Evolved ELV (EELV) program remain in active service, operated by the United Launch Alliance. The National Security Space Launch (NSSL) competition is currently ongoing to select EELV successors to provide assured access to space.
Iran has developed an expendable satellite launch vehicle named Safir SLV. Measuring 22 m in height with a core diameter of 1.25 m, with two liquid propellant stages, a single thrust chambered first stage and a two-thrust chambered, step-throttled second stage, the SLV has a lift off mass exceeding 26 tons. The first stage consists of a lengthened up-rated Shahab-3C. According to the technical documentation presented in the annual meeting of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, it is a two-stage rocket with all liquid propellant engines. The first stage is capable of carrying the payload to the maximum altitude of 68 kilometers.The Safir-1B is the second generation of Safir SLV and can carry a satellite weighing 60 kg into an elliptical orbit of 300 to 450 km. The thrust of the Safir-1B rocket engine has been increased from 32 to 37 tons.
The Israel Space Agency is one of only seven countries that both build their own satellites and launch their own launchers. The Shavit is a space launch vehicle capable of sending payload into low earth orbit. The Shavit launcher has been used to send every Ofeq satellite to date.
The development of the Shavit began in 1983 and its operational capabilities were proven on three successful launches of the Ofek satellites on September 19, 1988; April 3, 1990; and April 5, 1995. The Shavit launchers allows low-cost and high-reliability launch of micro/mini satellites to a Low Earth Orbit. The Shavit launcher is developed by Malam factory, one of four factories in the IAI Electronics Group. The factory is very experienced in development, assembling, testing and operating system for use in space.The Shavit is a triple-stage launcher solid propellant booster based on the 2-stage Jericho-II ballistic missile. The first and second stage engines are manufactured by Ta'as, and use solid fuel. The third stage engines are manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The next generation Shavit rockets, now called the Shavit-2 are being developed. The Shavit-2 is said to be made available for commercial launches in the near future.