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Russian engines a costly loss for US|
May 22, 2014
A new Pentagon study indicates that losing access to Russian-manufactured rocket engines could cost the US military’s space program up to $5 billion.
A panel of space experts says that the US needs the RD-180 engine in order to power the Atlas V rockets, one of the military’s two main satellite launchers, the study noted.
Without the engine, as many as 31 space missions would be delayed, according to a summary of the Mitchell Report, obtained by SpaceNews and ordered by the Defense Department.
That would also have a profound impact on a long-planned Air Force competition for national security launch contracts.
On May 13, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who supervises the country’s space sector, said he would ban exports of the engines to the US.
The move was in retaliation for US sanctions targeting several individuals and entities, including SMP Bank and Bank Rossiya, over the crisis in Ukraine.
Although the US has currently no other alternative to the engines, a Pentagon spokesman has said the US was currently working to evaluate other options.
"The department has been briefed on the findings and recommendations of the RD-180 Engine Study and is working with interagency stakeholders to evaluate the way ahead. At this point, no decisions have been made," Maureen Schumann told The Hill.
The study strongly suggests accelerating the planned purchases of RD-180 but avoiding US coproduction of the engine as it “does not improve the situation.”
“Actions must be taken in [fiscal year 2014] to mitigate current risk and preserve future options,” reads the summary of the study.
On May 20, Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, said that it did not make sense to build a domestic alternative to the RD-180 engine.
The US military has currently only 15 RD-180 engines on hand.