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US Engine Dilemma: No Space Without Moscow
by Staff Writers
Moscow (Sputnik) Nov 26, 2015

File image: RD-181 engine.

Washington continues to purchase rocket engines from Moscow, as the US has removed them from the list of sanctioned materials, Russia's trade representative to the United States told RIA Novosti.

According to Alexander Stadnik, the rocket engines were initially sanctioned by the United States, but Washington removed them from the list.

"They must have understood that they needed this Russian equipment for development of rocket equipment, otherwise they would have to limit themselves in a series of expensive projects. It is evident that this is the reason the supplies of our engines were continued."

Stadnik noted that the sides were continuing cooperation with previously signed contracts.

In January, Russian rocket producer Energia signed a $1 billion contract with US Orbital Sciences Corporation for the delivery of 60 RD-181 engines. The contract also includes a provision on a range of services including flight training, installation of the engine and engine testing.

In the late 1990s, the Russian Energomash company won a contract with United Launch Alliance to supply RD-180 engines for the Atlas rockets. This contract, valued at about $1 billion, remains in place.

The West, led by Washington, has been imposing sanctions on Russia since 2014, when a military and political crisis in Ukraine escalated, with the US and the EU alleging Russia's involvement.

Meanhwile, a key US lawmaker wants to slow the Pentagon's phaseout of Russian-made rocket engines to ensure America's access to space and eliminate a possible national security risk, US media wrote on Thursday.

Senator Richard Shelby, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, plans to propose amendments to the federal spending bill that would allow United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to keep buying RD-180 engines from Russia until a domestic alternative is available, Defense News reported, citing the Senator's office.

The Russian engines have powered dozens of ULA's satellite launches of military hardware over the past decade, but recent tensions with Russia and the emergence of a second launch company, California-based SpaceX - prompted Congress last year to push to phase out the RD-180 engines.

Congress has approved a defense authorization bill that would allow ULA to buy a maximum of four more Russian engines beyond its current allotment. ULA chief Tory Bruno has said that could mean the company will run out of the engines by 2019, up to three years before a rocket powered by domestic engines now being developed by aerospace company Blue Origin is ready to compete.

The result, he said, could be the same monopolistic environment the Pentagon wants to eliminate, with SpaceX instead of ULA handling all the launches.

According to US the Air Force, America needs up to 18 additional RD-180 engines through 2022 "to prevent interruptions in the satellite launch schedule," Defense News reported.

Source: Sputnik News


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