RD 180 engines

The Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine is a core element of the Atlas V launch vehicle. Atlas V rockets are used to launch military and spy satellites into space. The RD-180 engines are built in Russia by NPO Energomash and provided to United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. ULA has a monopoly on the Atlas V national security launches.

When the joint venture was formed in 2005, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) challenged the arrangement on anti-trust grounds but lost. Now, the Air Force is initiating a wide-ranging review of its launch plans for 2017 and beyond. SpaceX is again seeking the opportunity to compete with ULA.

As part of the Air Force review, the government is considering obtaining a license to manufacture the RD-180 engines in the U.S. Last year RT news claimed that an RD-180 export ban was being considered by the Russian military because, they say, NPO Energomash is losing money on the deal.

U.S. May Seek License for Russian Rocket Engines

While Russia hasn’t yet publicly threatened to cut off the supply of the 180 engines to the U.S., the scenario is one raised frequently by observers who advocate for more competition and suppliers in the military launch program.

“The Atlas V cannot assure access to space when it relies on President Putin’s permission to enter space,” Elon Musk, chief executive officer of start-up rocket-maker Space Exploration Technologies Corp., said during a hearing last week of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. The company, known as SpaceX, is seeking certification from the Air Force to be able to compete launches in the EELV program

One reason the RD-180 was selected for the Atlas V is that the Russian engine is very powerful for its size. Same could be said for Mr. Putin. Perhaps we should use more foresight in making deals with the Russians.

Related: SpaceX, ULA spar over military contracts for rocket launches

UPDATE: Ukraine poses no threat to Russian rocket engine imports -US

[Air Force Undersecretary Eric Fanning said] the search for an alternate source of the engines predated the ongoing violence in Ukraine, but emphasized that the U.S. partnership with Russia and the engine maker remained solid.

He also said the Air Force was keeping an eye on a Pentagon investigation into how U.S. weapons makers manage their supply chains after Chinese raw materials or components were found on U.S. weapons systems, including Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and F-16 fighter jets, Boeing’s B-1B, and the SM-3 IIA missile.

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7 Comments | Leave a comment
  1. Alain41 says:

    Мухнём на Луну, Фрэнк Синатра

    (Fly Me to the Moon, Frank Sinatra)

  2. deaves1 says:

    What could possibly go wrong with this idea??? Are they freakin’ serious?

  3. Dave says:

    Why the hell are we dependent on the Chinese or the Russians for anything that we could make here in the United States? This country needs a reset badly. The world still needs leadership that is not corrupt as much as they think they do not. Or are we going to just surrender to petty dictators too.

    • Rolleej says:

      Because Federal labor and environmental regulations have priced U.S. manufacturers out of the market. But that’s just a coincidence…

    • ancientwrrior says:

      The reset this nation needs is for a 1000 foot deep city wide sinkhole to open up beneath D.C. Then we could just cover it up and start over again fresh. 🙂

  4. ancientwrrior says:

    Russian rocket engines? Just a step above those made in China ones.

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