United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced Jan. 29 that it will restructure the Delta 2 program in an effort to make the medium-lift rocket cost-competitive in a shrinking market.

“Contrary to some public reports, ULA is not backing away from Delta 2

because of the reduced market,” Michael Gass, president and chief executive officer of the Denver-based Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture


said in a statement. “We are working to operate more efficiently at lower launch rates so that when the current market rebounds we will remain positioned to offer high-reliability and competitively priced launch products to support the market needs.”

ULA has named Rick Navarro as Delta 2 program director to manage the restructuring. Navarro previously served as

director of Delta launch operations at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

George Sowers, ULA vice president for business development, said

the restructuring would entail reducing facility

space dedicated to the Delta 2 and taking advantage of efficiencies expected to be realized as the company consolidates its Delta and Atlas rocket programs


previously announced its intention to close its Huntington Beach, Calif., operation by the end of the year, relocating hundreds, of Delta engineers to Denver.

Sowers said

other facilities are being eyed for closure, including one of two Delta 2 launch pads ULA currently maintains at

Cape Canaveral, but cautioned that the company has not made definite decisions.

ULA has 16 Delta 2 missions planned through 2010. But

the U.S. Air Force expected to conduct its last Delta 2 launch late this year and shift more payloads to the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets it helped develop under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.

NASA plans to follow suit.

As the manifest currently stands, NASA’s final Delta 2 mission would occur in 2010 with the launch of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer.

Sowers said restructuring the Delta 2 program will allow ULA to offer commercial and government customers better prices on future launches. “We think we can offer improved pricing immediately,” he said.

ULA also has multiple unclaimed Delta 2s in inventory that it has been looking to unload at a discount.

Sowers would not say exactly how many surplus vehicles ULA has on hand.

It’s a proprietary number, but several,” he said.

The Delta 2, which has flown 78 consecutive successful launches, is slated to lift off for the first time this year

March 13 carrying a GPS navigation satellite for the Air Force.