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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on May 15, 1987, that it plans to purchase the services of expendable launch vehicles (ELVs) for NASA missions. According to NASA administrator James C. Fletcher, “a major objective of this plan is to accelerate the deployment of the nation's backlog of space science missions.”

“NASA's purpose in seeking expendable launch services is to lessen dependence on a single launch system, the space shuttle,” Fletcher said. “Expendable launch vehicles will help assure access to space, add flexibility to the space program, and free the shuttle for manned scientific, shuttle-unique, and important national security missions.”