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Russian official announces ban on military use of RD-180 engines (updated)

The saga of the use of the RD-180 engine in the United States took a new turn on Tuesday when Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin indicated that RD-180 engines exported to the US for use on the Atlas V could not be used for launches of military payloads. “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,” he said on Twitter, amplifying comments he made at a press conference.

It is not clear how such a ban on military launches alone could be enforced, since Russia does not control the engines once they are exported by NPO Energomash to United Launch Alliance in the US. Russia could, of course, ban exports of RD-180 engines entirely, but still could do nothing about the engines already in the US; ULA officials have previously said they maintain a supply to support at least two years’ worth of launches.

Rogozin’s comments on military use of the RD-180 was one of several space-related moves he made in apparent response to American sanctions on Russia, including him personally. He said that GPS ground stations in Russian territory would have to shut down on June 1 unless the US agreed to allow Russia to establish similar stations for GLONASS in the US. (The fiscal year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act included a provision banning ground stations for non-GPS satellite navigation systems unless the Secretary of Defense and Director of National Intelligence certified to Congress such facilities were not also used for intelligence gathering or improving weapons systems, our of concerns proposed GLONASS stations would do just that.) He also indicated that Russia would not support continued participation in the International Space Station after 2020. Prior to the increase in US-Russia tensions because of the Ukraine crisis, Russian officials appeared to support operating the ISS until at least 2024.

Update 7:55 pm: the Russian government has posted a transcript of the press conference Tuesday featuring Rogozin and Roscosmos chief Oleg Ostapenko. A rough translation of the transcript backs up the statements in the media and by Rogozin himself on Twitter. In particular, Rogozin says the ban also extends to the NK-33 engine, although it’s not clear would be using that engine (Orbital Sciences uses an “Americanized” version of that engine, designated AJ26 by Aerojet Rocketdyne, but those engines are already in the US, and Orbital has talked about re-engining the Antares first stage rather than try to acquire more NK-33/AJ26 engines.) Rogozin also says the restriction on the use of RD-180 engines for US military missions would mean that Russian workers would not carry out necessary maintenance on engines already delivered the US.

If Rogozin’s comments reflect new Russian policy (which the publication of the press conference transcript on a Russian government website woudl suggest), that new policy has not made its way to officials in the US. In a statement emailed by NASA to selected members of the media, the agency said its operations of the ISS were unaffected. “We have not received any official notification from the Government of Russia on any changes in our space cooperation at this point,” the statement read.

ULA also said it was not aware of any changes in use of RD-180 engines on its vehicles. “ULA and our NPO Energomash supplier in Russia are not aware of any restrictions,” it said in another emailed statement. It went on, though, to base a domestic company for these problems. “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.”

81 comments to Russian official announces ban on military use of RD-180 engines (updated)

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    I’d really love to know how Russia proposes to enforce this requirement. It seems very nearly impossible to control what a launch provider in a different country does after they have taken possession of the goods.

    • Ad Astra

      Easy, they’ll stop selling new engines and ULA will run out of inventory in 2-3 years.

      • Rodaln

        They keep saying they have “two years” of engines. Why are they hiding the actual number of engines they have? The Russians know the exact number, why hide it from the public?

        Some believe it’s because ULA only have a few engines left. That they’d only be able to meet two years of demand if launches were pushed to Delta.

        It’s difficult to say whether this is true, but ULA’s behavior is mighty suspicious.

        • Jim Nobles

          I don’t remember where I read it but I heard they have 16 RD-180s in country and another 2 or 3 already paid for and on the way.

          I’m not swearing by it though…

    • Rodaln

      Civilian launches are public record and planned years in advance. The Russians know exactly how many engines will be needed for those launches. They’ll ship exactly that many and not an engine more.

      If the Russians want to take a really hard line, they could tell ULA to use their existing US stockpile for civilian launches. They couldn’t force ULA to do this, but could stop all shipments if ULA refused.

      A very small percentage of Atlas launches are for civilian needs. This effectively shuts down Atlas. All the overhead costs continue. All the infrastructure costs continue, all the personnel costs continue, with almost no launches to pay the bills.

    • Santoron

      Russia currently sends engineers over to perform required maintenance on the engines. I imagine they can use that to help enforce the new terms of sale.

  • common sense

    Looks like Rogozin just got hold of some SpaceX stock.

    Smart man.

  • josh

    Lol, what a mess. I just hope the people in the air force responsible for relying exclusively on ula get to pay a price.
    And let’s all hope this marks the beginning of the end for ula, another failed monopoly.

  • Jim Nobles

    There’s probably someone in Russia who represents the company that sells these engines and is now interacting with the politicians there the same way ULA interacted with people in power here when the judge slapped that injunction on them.

    This so-called ban may not last a week. They may not take it back officially but they may not really do anything to enforce it. Why? The same reason as here, the money involved.

  • Grandpa Dave

    From Russia with Love…

    When I was a little guy,
    I was told don’t put all
    your eggs in one basket.

    Well, here we are… Up
    that certain creek.

    BUT, No Problema…
    We’ll use those motors
    anyway we please. Thank you
    very much.

  • Again, its time to end the ISS program and move on towards the next generation of larger and cheaper Bigelow and SLS derived and deployed– American– space stations.

    Marcel

    • MattW

      For all intents and purposes, ending the ISS is the same as ending NASA HSF. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

    • Henry Vanderbilt

      You’re using the words “cheaper” and “SLS derived and deployed” in the same sentence.

      If this is humor, it’s too dry even for me.

      • MattW

        If you pretend for a moment that SLS is going to fly one day, the launch cost isn’t actually that terrible compared to ISS upkeep. Still not defensible, but less.

        • Henry Vanderbilt

          Actually, SLS launch costs do look like they’ll make current ISS upkeep look cheap. See http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/gao-slams-nasas-cost-estimating-for-orion-sls#.U3HzCKxWRFk.twitter.

          Even Shuttle didn’t manage to cost billions-with-an-S per flight. SLS looks well on its way to breaking that barrier.

        • NASA’s manned spaceflight related budget is fluctuates around $8 billion a year. Funding for the SLS heavy lift vehicle is less than $1.5 billion a year, far cheaper than the $3 billion year ISS program. And that doesn’t even include the cost of ISS related Commercial Crew development.

          Marcel

          • Hiram

            “Funding for the SLS heavy lift vehicle is less than $1.5 billion a year, far cheaper than the $3 billion year ISS program.”

            At $1.5B/yr, SLS won’t do much. Maybe one launch a year if they’re lucky. ISS is doing things continuously.

            • Michael Kent

              SLS won’t be launching once a year. They can only build them one every other year.

            • The SLS can do a lot. It can instantly replace the ISS space station with a single launch of a Bigelow Olympus Space station or an SLS derived space station with no need for multiple launches over several years.

              It can also place a huge space station at one of the Earth-Moon Lagrange points with a single launch.

              Its time for NASA to end the ISS and its 40 year mission to LEO.

              Marcel

              • Hiram

                “It can instantly replace the ISS space station with a single launch of a Bigelow Olympus Space station or an SLS derived space station with no need for multiple launches over several years.”

                SLS can replace ISS with an *empty* Olympus (which doesn’t exist, by the way, and will cost a bundle to make it exist so, er, not so instantly) with a single launch. How many launches is it going to need to stock and outfit those new stations? How much is it going to cost to stock and outfit them? Even to realize half the capability of ISS.

                It’s time for Marcel to end his many-year old delusions about the value of SLS, and his mission to fabricate rationale for it out of whole cloth.

              • Michael Kent

                “It can instantly replace the ISS space station with a single launch of a Bigelow Olympus Space station or an SLS derived space station with no need for multiple launches over several years.”

                No, it can’t. First, neither the SLS nor the Bigelow Olympus Space Station nor an SLS-derived space station exists. Second, the ISS weighs 460 metric tons. It would take 6-1/2 SLS launches (round up to seven) to launch an equivalent space station. Those seven SLS launches would take 14 years and cost $10.5 billion to perform.

                Since the 2017 & 2021 SLS flights are spoken for, it would be 2035 before this new space station of yours could be lofted and outfitted with SLS. That’s assuming that SLS remains on schedule and is used for no other purpose (say goodbye to exploration flights).

                Trading ISS for SLS is a horrible idea.

              • @Marcel F. Williams;…..It’s high time for us to completely QUIT with LEO stations, period! All this LEO-only activity is extremely stifling, and has seriously held us back, in terms of possible long-term progress. Low Earth Orbit stations create the ILLUSION that we’re doing something major in space. Obama destroyed Project Constellation, because he couldn’t stand the thought of “repeating Apollo”, yet meanwhile the ISS project does nothing more than REPEAT the same old thing over & over again: sending our astronauts on a capsule to reach a set of connected giant aluminum cans, for six-month-long junkets, on a flight that endlessly circles the Earth, goes nowhere, just to engage in zero-gravity research———wash & repeat, a hundred or more times!!

                I tell you, the sooner NASA outgrows this entire LEO station crusade, as the sole human space activity for our spacemen———the sooner we’ll get started on crewed missions to other worlds. If the current cold-war-like tensions with Russia continue, and it leads America to finally close up the ISS, and splash-down it into the Pacific, by circa 2020, AND we resist the misguided temptation to launch up another such station, then I’d say that a golden opportunity fork-in-the-road could finally await the United States!

              • Hiram

                “Obama destroyed Project Constellation, because he couldn’t stand the thought of ‘repeating Apollo’, yet meanwhile the ISS project does nothing more than REPEAT the same old thing over & over again …”

                This is the sad world view you get looking through the antique “destinations” glasses. It’s all about where humans go, and not about what they do. The tragedy of human spaceflight is that destinations count more than accomplishment or knowledge. The idea that we’re doing the same thing “over & over” on ISS is simply ludicrous unless the “thing” that we’re doing is just sending people there. Of course, once we set up a base on the Moon, and clean off our destinations glasses, we’ll be in the same boat. We’re just going to send people there “over & over”. Wash & repeat.

                This is the precisely the failure of modern space policy we’re looking at here.

                I tell you, the sooner we outgrow this entire round & round exasperation, as the driving force for our space policy ——— the sooner we’ll get started on real accomplishment on other worlds.

              • “No, it can’t. First, neither the SLS nor the Bigelow Olympus Space Station nor an SLS-derived space station exists. Second, the ISS weighs 460 metric tons.”

                Its internal volume that matters aboard a space station, not weight. The ISS is an overweight monstrosity because it was assembled with small heavy modules. At more than 450 tonnes, the ISS only as an internal pressurized volume of 837 cubic meters. A SLS upper stage derived Skylab II module could have an internal volume of about 495 cubic meters, while weighing less than 12 tonnes. You could probably fit two or three of them within an SLS fairing which would far exceed the internal volume of the ISS while only being a tiny fraction of the weight.

                Marcel

              • @Chris Castro

                I agree that NASA’s $3 billion a year ISS program is sucking up too much manned spaceflight funding. But I see nothing wrong with deploying a simple SLS derived space habitat at LEO as a way station. It wouldn’t even have to be permanently occupied.

                Marcel

              • Vladislaw

                The SLS doesn’t exist, the SLS Block 1A doesn’t exist, the SLS Block 1B doesn’t exist the SLS Block II doesn’t exist.
                The funding for anything past block I doesn’t exist.

                The new strap on boosters do not exist, the new engines do not exist. Funding for this does not exist.

                According to NASA the SLS block II isn’t going to exist until 2032 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Launch_System

                Bigelow has not built and operated any human outpost yet.

                Please explain how we could “instantly” have a new station?

                “It can instantly replace the ISS space station with a single launch of a Bigelow Olympus Space station ”

                It could, in theory, replace the ISS in 18 years. Your definition of instantly is really insane.

              • @ Chris:
                “It’s high time for us to completely QUIT with LEO stations, period! All this LEO-only activity is extremely stifling, and has seriously held us back, in terms of possible long-term progress. Low Earth Orbit stations create the ILLUSION that we’re doing something major in space…”

                This is how it works. Among various aeronautical programs (the first ‘A’ in NASA doesn’t go away) the agency does this thing called ‘space research.’

                ‘Space Exploration,’ human or otherwise, is a subset of space research. To do some kinds of space research, LEO is adequate. You need indefinite microgravity, and/or unlimited vacuum to do them. Some of that research is even vital to going farther away, though by no means all of it. If you need to know something about, say, protein crystal formation in microgravity, you don’t have to be halfway to Mars to do it. But you know what? It’s ‘space research,’ because you must be ‘in space’ to conduct it. See? Conducting research constitutes doing something.

                No, it’s hardly the fire and drama of putting boots on the ground in another gravity well for the first time, but if someone told you that all research (in space or down here) would be ‘exciting,’ well they lied. Life doesn’t play out like a movie or technothriller novel. But that does not mean it isn’t important research.

                “Obama destroyed Project Constellation, because he couldn’t stand the thought of “repeating Apollo”…”

                Constellation was a money pit that no President would have let continue indefinitely. Orion/Ares-I to LEO by 2017, Ares-V ready for something…when? How much in the end? Even SLS can at best, just repeat Apollo-8, only with longer orbital stay-times. Benefit of that?

                “yet meanwhile the ISS project does nothing more than REPEAT the same old thing over & over again: sending our astronauts on a capsule to reach a set of connected giant aluminum cans, for six-month-long junkets, on a flight that endlessly circles the Earth, goes nowhere, just to engage in zero-gravity research———wash & repeat, a hundred or more times!!”

                And ISS cost more that a decent space station should, as well. But it’s the one we’ve got. What kind of laboratory do you know that answers all questions on your schedule? (and it endlessly circles the Earth because…that’s all it needs to do, to make possible what happens inside.)

                Besides, in a many-month flight to Mars, is it really going to look/feel much different? Coasting through vacuum is pretty much all the same, whether you circle the Earth, or circle the Sun. (ask Einstein)But you had better have learned all that human and technology long-duration stuff back when you were ‘only’ going round and round your own close-by planet where you have a chance to bail out of your serious mistakes…

                And if Apollo is any example, after mission two or three, somebody out there is God-blessed certain to ask why we’re going to that ‘boring’ red planet again? Attention spans are definitely no longer today than in the sixties. ‘Excite the public’ lasts only about that long. Your other reasons for going anywhere with government money, had better be good enough to take up the slack after that…or require a sufficiently small enough amount of ongoing money, thanks to technology matured elsewhere (like, you know…LEO) that, like Antarctic research (which itself is well past the ‘heroic’ days of Scott and Shackleton, the latter possibly the Apollo 13 of his time) that it stays under the radar, and no one sees fit to complain.

                “If the current cold-war-like tensions with Russia continue, and it leads America to finally close up the ISS, and splash-down it into the Pacific, by circa 2020, AND we resist the misguided temptation to launch up another such station, then I’d say that a golden opportunity fork-in-the-road could finally await the United States!

                Or the argument could be; “If we can’t manage a station just 250 miles away, how the devil are we supposed to manage a human presence on another planet?”

                If ISS is decommissioned before there’s one or more (better thought out, preferably…like it or not, there will still be a need for that non-exploration space research, even on the day we send out the first starship [which would have been built at a 'space station, BTW]) orbiting research stations to replace it, it’s not clear that there would be any further government human space flight. ISS came within one vote of cancellation in 1992. As far as I’m aware, not one of the opponents used the argument; “We should use this money to return to the Moon, or go to Mars, instead.”

                I would expect little difference, today. I’m one of those ‘Children of Apollo.’ who came to understand the limits of what you can hope to get done, and keep doing, if it requires massive amounts of other people’s money…

                I don’t think you do, Chris.

          • Henry Vanderbilt

            SLS is already $1.9 billion a year if you include the SLS-specific ground support equipment they break out into a separate budget item. And that’s just for preliminary design and some test parts fab. SLS backers lately have been hinting broadly they want considerably more money to actually build and fly the thing.

            Meanwhile, OMB is reporting that SLS management isn’t giving them the data they need about minor accessories like, say, actual SLS upper stages, to come up with any sort of realistic SLS life-cycle cost.

            Even on the current numbers, it’d take far more launches than are likely anytime soon before a basic 70-ton SLS got down to under $2 billion a flight, and they’ll never make it under $1 billion a flight.

            Given the likely magnitude of the numbers they’re hiding from OMB, my guess would be they’ll be lucky to stay under $2 billion a flight.

            But either way, with SpaceX marketing F9H an an order of magnitude or more cheaper, SLS costs waaaaaay too much.

            Hell, D4H at a half-billion each is cheaper than SLS will most likely turn out.

      • Vladislaw

        I too find it very amusing with people write SLS and cheaper… they just keep drinking that koolaid.

        • In reply to Marcel F. Williams,…..Sure, maybe a smaller & intermittently occupied, Skylab-like station, that wouldn’t monopolize all of NASA’s focus & attention might have its moments—–particularly if it REALLY WERE a refueling, way station for cis-lunar-bound spacecraft. If only the space mission wouldn’t end at just LEO, but that the reached platform would instead be a true jumping off point, for trips to the Moon, as some 1970′s & 1980′s space non-fiction writers used to envision!

          China might be contemplating some variation of the smaller-&-flexible-&-more efficient type of space station, that’ll serve as a test platform, for the pre-launching & parked-orbit placement of deep-space-going vehicles. I personally find the exercise mostly unnecessary, and time squandering, but if they can avoid copying the ISS to full detail——-AND avoid getting themselves bogged down into doing nothing but LEO activities for more than a decade, then there might still be hope, for humanity finally leaving the cradle.

          Still, I have my doubts about LEO stations actually leading to renewed Lunar exploration, perhaps a decade later: NASA will most likely just get so comfortable & complacent about the safe-ness & easiness of LEO, that it’ll end up pushing no further. Getting trapped in LEO, without any viable exit strategy, is a pitfall that appears very difficult to avoid!

  • DocM

    Russoa just made SpaceX’s RD-180 case in the lawsuit, and totally undercuts the USAF block buy decision.

    The judge, and the US govt., have some serious thinking to do. ‘Pity da fools’ who carry ULA’s Atlas V water in Congress.

  • Jim Nobles

    I have a question for those technically knowledgeable folks. Who, besides SpaceX, is probably capable of making a RD-180 replacement at a reasonable price? Which could be sold at a reasonable price?

    • Dave Huntsman

      You’re assuming that the only solution is a US-built version or equivalent for the current Atlas V. Maybe the best answer to the RD-180 problem is a different launch vehicle all together; and for a majority of Atlas V flights, there is one American-made option waiting in the wings: SpaceX. It’s already here.

      Any new US built RD-180 would be just that – a new engine, for all practical purposes; they’d be starting from ground zero all over again, behind where SpaceX is now.

      • Malmesbury

        Any replacement that isn’t just a copy of the RD-180 will probably be a poor match with the rest of the first stage of Atlas V. You are probably better off thinking in terms of either

        1) Clone RD-180
        2) A new first stage with a new engine.

      • Jack Johnson

        Somebody, who’s name must not be mentioned, designed them a wonderful SSME derived reusable launcher about seven years ago. Aerojet is in the engine business, right?

    • Coastal Ron

      Jim Nobles said:

      Who, besides SpaceX, is probably capable of making a RD-180 replacement at a reasonable price? Which could be sold at a reasonable price?

      What’s a reasonable price? Unfortunately the cost of an engine is not the only issue that ULA has to address in order to offer future competitive launch pricing. It might take an entirely new rocket design that matches a new domestic engine with a new launcher core.

      For instance, SpaceX has shown that using multiple smaller engines provides a lot of advantages, including potential reusability. ULA could choose to just contract someone to build a domestic version of the RD-180, but I think that would only be a short-term solution if we assume that SpaceX does end up perfecting reusability of some sort.

      But certainly Aerojet Rocketdyne, which was formed out of the merger with Aerojet and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, has the in-house talent to make a new rocket engine – whatever the size.

      • Jim Nobles

        To be clear, I wasn’t thinking of a replacement engine for the Atlas V. I probably should have made that clear. This might hurt some feelings but I think the Atlas V is toast. Not immediately but its days are numbered. Too bad really as it is very good vehicle technically but simply too expensive to operate and it has severe foreign parts supply issues as many have noticed.

        I like SpaceX but I don’t like the idea that they could end up being the only affordable launch provider in their class. I don’t think really anyone believes that’s a good idea.

        • Coastal Ron

          Jim Nobles said:

          To be clear, I wasn’t thinking of a replacement engine for the Atlas V. I probably should have made that clear. This might hurt some feelings but I think the Atlas V is toast.

          I think you might be right, IF this engine supply issue is not solved politically. And it might, there is still time.

          Too bad really as it is very good vehicle technically but simply too expensive to operate and it has severe foreign parts supply issues as many have noticed.

          We really don’t know what the real price of an Atlas V would be if real competition would have been involved from the beginning. ULA has had no real incentive to do anything innovative with regards to their costs.

          And I too like the Atlas V. Just don’t like the price.

          I like SpaceX but I don’t like the idea that they could end up being the only affordable launch provider in their class. I don’t think really anyone believes that’s a good idea.

          For Delta IV too, we don’t know what it’s price really could be, only what it is without real competition.

          The other thing to remember though is that the U.S. Government is OK with Delta IV pricing today, regardless how ridiculously high they are, so if Atlas V goes away I think the Air Force would ensure that Delta IV is still used – specifically to keep redundancy. And redundancy is good, so I’d be fine with that type of strategy.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “Who, besides SpaceX, is probably capable of making a RD-180 replacement at a reasonable price? Which could be sold at a reasonable price?”

      The obvious LOX/kerosene candidate to replace the RD-180 is P&WR’s AE-1E6, which they’re studying/designing for future SLS boosters. Like the RD-180, it’s a two-chamber, ~1Mlb.-thrust, oxygen-rich, staged combustion engine. No doubt P&WR was also designing it with the EELV program in mind long before the RD-180 fiasco. That said, between SSME, J-2X, RS-68, RL-10, “low-cost” or “affordable” have never been part of the DNA that PW&R inherited from its parent companies (or even much hydrocarbon engine experience). Moreover, designing engines for a NASA human space flight program, nevertheless SLS, will drive costs over and above whatever P&WR does.

      The other candidate is Dynetics’ attempt to resurrect the F-1. At 1.8 million pounds thrust, it may be overkill for an RD-180 replacement, but with a gas generator cycle, it also won’t have the efficiency of the AE-1E6. GenCorp Aerojet was Dynetics’ partner on the F-1, and now that GenCorp has bought P&WR, the F-1 project will probably meet with an early death. But if it survives, it’s even more unlikely to be “low-cost” or “affordable” given the association of former Ares I managers with the project, the NASA HSF/SLS requirements, and the problems that inevitably arise when legacy hardware and designs are adapted to new applications and production processes. SLS is having significant issues adopting the SSMEs, and the same would likely happen with F-1 when adapted to SLS boosters.

      That leaves SpaceX’s LOX/CH4 Raptor engine. It may or may not become “low-cost” or “affordable”, but given the company’s culture and the absence of NASA HSF/SLS requirements, it arguably has a better shot than the AE-1E6 or F-1. That said, it’s unlikely that SpaceX will share Raptor. They have every disincentive to share with a direct competitor like ULA. Moreover, I know of at least one company that Musk has turned down when approached for engine (in this case Kestrel) production or even just licensing.

      Theoretically, someone like Blue Origin could come out of left field. But they’re focused on LOX/LH2, and I can’t think of anyone that could play at this size of engine.

      My 2 cents is that DOD will underwrite AE-1E6 and Atlas V will be priced even further out of the commercial market. Or DOD will shut down Atlas V after the current stock of RD-180s runs out (assuming ULA can use them without Ruskie experts). I doubt Dynetics can do F-1 on their own, SpaceX won’t share Raptor, and there are no other clear players.

      What the U.S. launch industry needs even more now than another competitive launch provider is a good engine provider.

  • For what it’s worth … I checked the Russian-language version of the Russia Today web site and this article isn’t there. That suggests the article is for U.S. consumption.

    Which suggests to me it’s all bluster. It wouldn’t go down so well if he threatened to shut down a major part of his own industry.

    • Coastal Ron

      Stephen C. Smith said:

      Which suggests to me it’s all bluster. It wouldn’t go down so well if he threatened to shut down a major part of his own industry.

      And the Russians are very good at doing feints like that. Pulling out of the ISS program would hurt Russia’s space program to a greater degree than it would ours, especially since we have a growing private sector that is already taking over what used to be the domain of governments.

      They might be serious, but this still has a long time to play out before we’ll know for sure…

      • Fred Willett

        Yea, but the problem is that in the longer term it upsets the USG to the point where they’re likely to spend the necessary money to build a replacement for the RD-180.
        Congress has already flagged this.
        Dmitry Rogozin just gave them a hurry up.
        Not smart marketing.

  • Peabody

    Space-X is the only company capable of producing high quality rocket engines at a reasonable cost. Their facilities are very modern and large enough to increase capacity to mass produce engines. Their employees are extremely talented. On the other hand, Aerojet/Rocketdyne/Pratt & Whitney (are now Aerojet Rocketdyne) are in bad shape. The company has gone through a number of layoffs, their main manufacturing facility has been shut down. What manufacturing capabilities remain are out of the 1990’s. Many of the employees have been driven out by the loss of benefits. Many of the talented former Aerojet Rocketdyne employees are now Space-X employees. At least Space-X builds in America. Aerojet Rocketdyne is the one that would rather purchase Russian engines because they make more profit.
    Aerojet Rocketdyne is capable of producing exceptional engines but it will just cost the government billions of dollars and will take many years to develop. Space-X is now the leader in the space business.

  • Jim Nobles

    According to an article on DefenseNews.com ULA is blaming all this on SpaceX:

    ““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.”

    http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140513/DEFREG01/305130040/Reports-Russia-Blocks-RD-180-Engine-Sales-Pentagon-Programs

    • Coastal Ron

      Yes, no doubt Russia was unaware of the potential political leverage they had with the Ukrainian related sanctions with their RD-180 engine deliveries to ULA. Yep, I’m sure they had no idea at all until SpaceX mentioned the issue…

      • Neil

        Yes it’s all SpaceXs fault just as ULA said. LOL

      • Jim Nobles

        It’s like ULA’s attitude is: “Shhhh! Be quiet and maybe no one will notice the Russian engines… Dammit! SpaceX told everybody. We hate them!”

        What a bunch of 4th graders…

        • Jim Nobles wrote:

          What a bunch of 4th graders…

          That sums it up perfectly … You’d think ULA learned how to debate on the Internet …

        • Ad Astra

          Except that Russia was happy to go along with exempting the space business from the whole sanctions/response fiasco. Until Elon made is a political issue by stamping up and down Capitol Hill. He’s as much to blame for this as the idiot judge who escalated the issue with the preliminary injunction. To that extent ULA is exactly right: Elon’s singular focus on breaking the block buy resulted in this international mess.

          If only SpaceX had directed some of this zeal toward meeting their own development schedule, they could have competed and likely won quite a few missions.

          • Jim Nobles

            Don’t blame this on Elon. This has been coming since it was decided that using foreign engines on critical DOD assests was an okay idea. Blame the people that made that decision years ago…

            • Ad Astra

              Really? Because in the two decades since the decision was made there have been numerous geopolitical situations in which Russia and the US disagreed, and space industry sanctions were never on the table.

              Not until SpaceX started playing the patriotism card, and a federal trade court judge decided to try her hand at international politics did Russia even mention sanctioning space.

              • Jim Nobles

                ULA has this problem because they are using foreign engines to launch DOD payloads. They have been given enough money over the years to develop a domestic alternative. They made a bad business decision by not doing so. This situation is their fault.

          • Jim Nobles

            And while I’m thinking about it… What the hell happened to all that “assured access” money? It sure didn’t go into assured critical component availability did it?

            Maybe there’s more here than meets the eye. Maybe an investigation is warranted. Maybe something criminal has occurred. Where did those funds go?

            • Ad Astra

              The money went into maintaining and upgrading two separate families of launch vehicles, each of which maintained 100% mission success. That’s the definition of assured access. Meanwhile SpaceX blew up three rockets and burned up a secondary payload in the atmosphere… The opposite of assured access.

          • Neil

            Bloody hell. If it wasn’t for Elon, the U.S. space launch would be absolutely f….d and yet people are blaming him for this fiasco. Think about what he has achieved and what he’s still planning to do.
            Apologies for the language but not the intent.

    • How shameful of ULA. They should take lessons from Dmitri Rogozin. At least he knows how to behave like a bully.

      • Robert G. Oler

        I really think that this is more (to modify a Russian phrase) “Pissing in your boot to get warm” but in the end I think what they have done is set the stage for things to get “a lot colder”

        In the end Ivan is going to do nothing which destroys dollar flow into Russian industries and government organizations and that includes the station and engines. Having said that never ever make threats that you are not prepared to carry out because eventually the bluff might get called.

        I would not be a bit surprised if somewhere in the deep recesses of lobbying ULA is in on this trying to beat up on SpaceX and in the meantime trying to get the government to cement its support of ULA…

        But my guess is that the hand has been overplayed. Assuming SpaceX can deliver a product. Everything has teething issues and their launch success is impressive but right now they seem unable to make their launch turnaround numbers. RGO

        • Jim Nobles

          Yeah, SpaceX has definitely got to get that factory floor to launch assembly line working reliably. And I wish the Govt. would hurry up and get that environmental impact paperwork done so the Texas site can start taking shape.

  • Ted Knight

    How ironic that the Russians would take action that could finally push us forward in commercial space. How is “assured access” working out now? Air Force and NASA status quo (including the Asministrator) have set back the country’s economic and security future immeasurably.

  • My blog article “Russian Roulette” commenting on today’s events.

    Rogozin tweeted that Russia and China will now explore “prospective projects of our bilateral cooperation in space.” How pathetic. The Russian space program has fallen apart so badly that now they’re crawling off to China for scraps.

    Russia and China over the centuries have rarely liked each other much, and I doubt China will trust them after they reneged on their deals with their current business partners.

    • Vladislaw

      “Russia and China over the centuries have rarely liked each other ”

      Not since the Golden Horde and the Mongol yoke dominated Rus. I can not imagine Russia approaching China hat in hand to get on board their station.

  • Rhyolite

    The shorter ULA: It is SpaceX’s fault for pointing out that we have an unreliable supplier not ours for picking the unreliable supplier.

  • Martijn Meijering

    What the U.S. launch industry needs even more now than another competitive launch provider is a good engine provider.

    Why does the industry need another engine provider? Maybe Atlas simply needs to go away, with some of its parts merged into Delta as is already happening. If SLS is killed eventually, Boeing and LM could give up on rocket development work and let ULA merge with Aerojet Rocketdyne. US spaceflight needs could then be served by Falcon, Antares and Delta.

  • Sergey

    someone translate pls (about rd-180 and Russia)
    http://ria.ru/world/20140513/1007646486.html

    • Vladislaw

      Translation:

      Russia, in response to the efforts made by the U.S. sanctions may suspend the delivery rocket engines DR-180 and K-33 in the US, stated on tuesday vice-prime minister of Russia Dmitry Rogozin. Moscow, 13 May – RIA Novosti. Stop deliveries of Russian rocket engines in the U.S. strikes on the American space program, but at the same time does not affect the Russian enterprises, said RIA news editor-in-chief of the magazine News space” Igor With solo performances appeared Alexei Yagudin.

      “We sell these engines to the Americans virtually at a loss. When was the treaty, the cost engine in the United States dollar was one, now it has remained the same, and the purchasing power dollar fell, at the same time, and their salaries, we have grown up, and costs”, – said the expert”

    • Vladislaw

      I never saw mention of the K-33 before that is the reconditioned engines that Orbital use correct?

  • Gary Warburton

    There has been a lot of talk about the usefulness of ISS by extremely short sighted people but where else are you going to learn about long term living in space it is important to get all the knowledge about what it`s going to take now while you can replace and fix things while we are close to earth so that we can get a complete idea of what we will be up against on long interplanetary trips because there will no quick fixes for trips that take years. the SLS was a politically ordered fiasco forced on Nasa by some silly politicians who knew nothing about what we should be doing in space. Here is what I think the VISION for space should have looked like and you`re welcome to add to this if you see something I`ve missed as it is important that every thing that needs to be done to make things happen quickly and properly be done.
    1) Costs need to come down. To make that happen we need reusability, and streamlined production both of which SpaceX is doing but so that we are getting the best possible outcomes we should have had several companies doing it and combine the best ideas in one or two companies. Sort of like what we have been doing but more purposely
    ordered by government. This should have been done solely for orbital access.
    2) We should build a rotating space station (The Clark Type) that has it`s own artificial gravity combined with a fuel depot.
    3) We should have a similar contest to produce a real spaceship, an interplanetary spaceship, like Nautilus X. Having several companies producing their own version which stays in orbit and never lands on earth. The idea that a spaceship to Mars would start from the surface of earth is impractical.

    • Hiram

      “Here is what I think the VISION for space should have looked like …”

      Sorry, but that’s not a vision. It’s an implementation plan for a vision. (OK, maybe it’s a vision of an implementation plan.) A real VISION is what it’s all about. What it’s all for. What value it provides. Once you decide on that, you decide the implementation plan that’s going to get us there.

      The Apollo program wasn’t based on a “vision” of achieving the Moon. It was based on a vision of showing up the Soviets. That was a powerful, and real vision. Making base stations and space ships is not a vision, except in a very adolescent sense.

      Now, don’t feel bad. The lack of understanding of what a vision really is is positively chronic in the human space flight community and Congress. VSE tried to be a vision, and came closer than anything done yet. Nice implementation plan, though. Wonder what it’s for!

      Until human space flight proponents really understand what makes a vision, their efforts in flying humans in space are doomed.

      • Gary Warburton

        I think the idea of deciding on a destination is not a vision for space. You have to crawl before you can walk. You have to learn what you need to know before you step out into Space then when you know how to do it you can set destinations on a long trip to Mars. There can be no vision of space before you actually know what you`re doing.

  • Hiram

    “I think the idea of deciding on a destination is not a vision for space.”

    I agree completely. In fact, I spelled that out in some detail above. I certainly never said here that a destination was a vision for space.

    Learning how to crawl isn’t a vision, nor is learning how to walk. Nor is learning how to fly, or travel through space. The vision is what you do when you can walk, or fly, or travel through space, and that’s about a lot more than where you can go. Maybe it’s about mining the cosmos (to the extent humans need to do that in situ), or about insuring the species, or about science, or about sticking it to the Chinese. But it’s not about going to the Moon or Mars.

    That’s where the “round-and-round” ISS haters are misled. To them, it’s precisely about where you go (or don’t go).

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