New Space and Tech

Russia to Halt Export of RD-180 Engines for MilSat Launches and Questions ISS Future

By Marc Boucher
May 13, 2014
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Russia to Halt Export of RD-180 Engines for MilSat Launches and Questions ISS Future
RD-180 Engine

The escalating war of words between Russia and U.S. just hit home hard for the Air Force and United Launch Alliance (ULA) with the news today that Russia would no longer supply RD-180 engines for export to the U.S. if used by the “Pentagon”.

The news was reported on Russian state owned TV news channel RT but was soon followed up by a series of Tweets by Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian deputy prime minister including this; “Russia is ready to continue deliveries of RD-180 engines to the US only under the guarantee that they won’t be used in the interests of the Pentagon.”

ULA currently has a two year supply of RD-180 engines in stock.

RT is also reporting “that Russia is considering halting the operations of all American GPS stations on its territory, starting from June 1.”

Rogozin also tweeted; “Roscosmos (RUS Fed Space Agency) stands ready for talks with the US on equal-footed cooperation and on deploying GLONASS stations in its territory.”

Rogozin also brought up the International Space Station (ISS) saying “we currently project that we’ll require the ISS until 2020,” he said. “We need to understand how much profit we’re making by using the station, calculate all the expenses and depending on the results decide what to do next.”

According to the RT article Russian is currently rethinking use of the ISS beyond 2020 and as previously reported is considering building another space station.

It’s unclear if today’s pronouncement by Rogozin is simply bellicose rhetoric and an attempt meant to soften Washington’s current stand on Russia or truly an escalation in tensions as Russia further flexes its muscles.

One consequence of the ongoing war of words could very well be the further ramping up efforts by Congress to push for a made-in-america equivalent to the RD-180 engine. There’s already an effort underway to provide seed funding in the budget to make this happen.

While Russia might get some political points at home and in the region, it may very lose out on the lucrative funds that come its way from the sale of the RD-180 and other space hardware to the U.S.

Update: Late this afternoon NASA and United Launch Alliance released these statements.

United Launch Alliance Statement on Russian Statements

“ULA and our NPO Energomash supplier in Russia are not aware of any restrictions. However, if recent news reports are accurate, it affirms that SpaceX’s irresponsible actions have created unnecessary distractions, threatened U.S. military satellite operations, and undermined our future relationship with the International Space Station.”

NASA Statement on News Reports Regarding Russian Space Statements

“Space cooperation has been a hallmark of US-Russia relations, including during the height of the Cold War, and most notably, in the past 13 consecutive years of continuous human presence on board the International Space Station. Ongoing operations on the ISS continue on a normal basis with a planned return of crew tonight (at 9:58 p.m. EDT) and expected launch of a new crew in two weeks. We have not received any official notification from the Government of Russia on any changes in our space cooperation at this point.”

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