Air Force official says RD-180 replacement not a “done deal”

A top Air Force official said Friday that the Defense Department is implementing the near-term recommendations of a recent study regarding the availability of the RD-180 engine used by the Atlas V, but would not yet commit to that study’s long-term recommendation of developing a domestic replacement.

“I think it’s in the mix, but it’s [...]

Senate defense bill offers mixed messages on RD-180 replacement, EELV competition

The Senate Armed Services Committee completed work this week in closed sessions on its version of the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Bill. While the full text of the bill is not yet available, members of the committee have provided some news about its contents, including provisions regarding development of a new large rocket [...]

RD-180 report recommends development of domestic replacement engine

Despite comments made last week by Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin that Russia would ban the use of the RD-180 engine to launch US military payloads, an Atlas V 401 rocket, powered by such an engine, lifted off Thursday morning from Cape Canaveral carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. That doesn’t [...]

Shelton: time for “pause” in RD-180 debate

A week after Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin ignited a firestorm with a claim that Russia would ban the use of RD-180 engines for launching American military payloads, the head of Air Force Space Command said that operations were proceeding as usual and urged a “pause” in the debate.

“There have been no official [...]

Deciding whether, and how, to reproduce or replace the RD-180

In this week’s issue of The Space Review, I provide an overview of the current debate about the RD-180 engine, including a blow-by-blow of the injunction briefly in place that blocked payments to the engine’s manufacturer, NPO Energomash, as well as the provision in the House defense authorization bill that would start work on a [...]

Hearing set for today on motion to lift RD-180 injunction

The US Court of Federal Claims has scheduled a hearing for 10 am Eastern this morning regarding the motion filed by the US government on Tuesday to lift the preliminary injunction blocking payments to Energomash, the Russian company that manufactures the RD-180 engines used on the Atlas V. In filings with the court Tuesday, government [...]

Armed Services Committee to take up authorization bill with RD-180 and other provisions

Later this morning the House Armed Services Committee will mark up its draft fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes funding for the Defense Department and contains various policy provisions.

One of the biggest space-related provisions, located in the Strategic Forces section, is to authorize work on a new liquid-propellant rocket engine [...]

SpaceX EELV suit updates

Late Friday evening, SpaceX issued a press release confirming what the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, announced earlier in the day: that the company was filing suit to protest the Air Force’s block buy EELV contract with United Launch Alliance (ULA). Besides going over the rationale for their protest, the company also used the release to [...]

SpaceX files suit over EELV block buy contract

In a sharp escalation of the ongoing debate over military launch contracts, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced Friday afternoon that the company was filing suit against the Air Force to formally protest a “block buy” contract the service made with United Launch Alliance.

In a hastily-arranged press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, [...]

Intel community willing to allow higher resolution commercial imagery

For the last few years, commercial satellite remote sensing company DigitalGlobe (and, before its merger with DigitalGlobe, GeoEye) has been lobbying the government to allow it to sell sharper satellite imagery that it’s currently allowed. DigitalGlobe is currently restricted to selling imagery with resolution no sharper than 0.5 meters per pixel, but has been pushing [...]