Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services (LMCLS) is offering a 100 percent space launch vehicle “refund or reflight” program, to protect customers in the event of a total launch vehicle malfunction. The firm claims this new guarantee is a first for the industry. The programme also provides partial refunds for partial malfunctions, and applies to all future LMCLS non-U.S. government contracts
Comment by David Todd: The claim from Lockheed Martin that this reflight guarantee is a first for the industry is suspect – at least for the reflight aspect. In fact, Arianespace has been offering a free reflight guarantee for several years. They operate a “captive” insurance company which partially offloads this risk of having to pay for one of these replacement launches via reinsurance to the international insurance market.
The move by Lockheed Martin represents a bid to capture more of the commercial market. The firm’s Atlas V rockets are noted for their reliability but their cost has always been a deterrent to their launch use by commercial satellite firms. This move reduces the insurance costs at least for the launch vehicle element of any flight for customers.
The other deterrent to more commercial use of the Atlas V is their launch availability. Most Atlas V rockets (along with Boeing’s Delta IV rockets) are more normally committed by the joint ULA (United Launch Alliance) to service US military and government flights in the EELV (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) programme. However, given the new bid by SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp) to move in on the US military/government launch sector using its Falcon 9 family, it makes sense to ensure that Lockheed Martin has another string to its bow: an increased commercial launch market for its rockets. This will be especially important if their Atlas V rockets are freed up if more military launches go to SpaceX.