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I have read many times that the Delta IV is more expensive to launch than the Atlas V. Outside of the Delta IV Heavy configuration, which is in a class by itself for certain payloads and missions, are there other reasons a customer might choose to launch on a Delta instead of an Atlas? There must be, since there have been a number of Delta IV launches in the 15 or so years since the Delta IV family was introduced. But I can't figure it out.

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  • $\begingroup$ What are your sources for pricing? Do they specify specific configurations? Delta IV is available with a choice of upper stages and both offer different payload fairings and solid booster options; it wouldn't surprise me if some Delta medium configurations were cheaper than some Atlas configurations. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Jul 12 '16 at 2:42
  • $\begingroup$ This article among others: aviationweek.com/space/… "The Atlas V typically is a cheaper launch option than a Delta IV" ... There must be some advantage to the Delta, other than just the fact that it just looks COOL (which it does...) $\endgroup$ – orulz Jul 12 '16 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ Looks like USAF is the only real customer for Delta IV Medium. There are good business reasons to keep two overlapping product lines around, so I would guess that ULA gives USAF a discount on block orders that include Deltas. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Jul 12 '16 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ Don't assume "there must be" a good reason for government decisions. There ain't no good reasons behind a kid stealing its parents money to buy an ice cream. It is expensive because the more tax money paid to the special interests, the more lobby money the politicians will get back to lie themselves to profitable victory in the next election too. There are way too many launchers in the world today with similar capabilities. For no rational reason, just corrupt waste. This is not an opinion, it is an important and concrete fact of life. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Jul 12 '16 at 17:30
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Since 2004, it's been policy of the US government to assure there are at least two launcher families available for launching "national security payloads" (e.g. military surveillance and communication satellites). Prior to the entry of Antares and Falcon 9 in the market, this pretty much meant Atlas and Delta, therefore USAF was required to make the necessary orders to keep both rockets in production.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/2273

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the clarification. So, beyond the Delta IV Heavy, there are essentially no technical advantages. That also explains why the Delta IV is being retired, except for the Heavy. It's too bad there won't be a "Delta V" - Delta-Five or Delta-Vee. Could there be any more perfect name for a rocket? $\endgroup$ – orulz Jul 12 '16 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ @orulz probably Delta BPTAV(better performance than atlas v).Russell has said in his answer,should be two launchers at least.If an issue or bad situation happens with one rocket and its engines,investigations should be done,time is needed.The other rocket would work until everything is ok.If you could consider advantage the only thing that Delta IV is better than Atlas V is about the performance in terms of payload(LEO,GTO)to total launch vehicle mass ratio.But of course who cares for 10%,20% more weight if the price is cheaper.Anyway just as a characteristic Delta IV here is ahead Atlas V. $\endgroup$ – Mark777 Jul 13 '16 at 12:20

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