September 24, 2022

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Russia stops deliveries of missile engines to the United States

Russia stops deliveries of missile engines to the United States

Russia has halted deliveries of rocket engines to the United States, but the space launch company owned by Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp. said it has enough of these engines on hand for upcoming missions.

“In such a situation, we can simply no longer supply the United States with our world-class rocket engines,” Dmitry Rogozin, director general of the Russian space agency known as Roscosmos, said Thursday on state television when he announced the moratorium on the engines. exports.

The United States has long planned to end its dependence on Russian missile engines, but efforts have been bogged down by technical and financing challenges The Pentagon pushed to continue using Russian-made engines Several years longer than originally expected.

A senior Pentagon official said he had not heard of any major concerns about US access to space being affected by the move.

“I believe our launch needs will be met,” U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said at a Thursday briefing.

United Launch Alliance, the Boeing-Lockheed launch company, uses Russian-made RD-180 engines on an Atlas V rocket.

A spokeswoman for the joint venture said it has the RD-180 engines needed to complete space missions on Atlas V for existing customers. She said these engines are stocked at a factory in Decatur, Ala.

“We have agreements for technical support and spare parts, but if that support is not available, we will still be able to launch our Atlas program safely and successfully,” she said. She added that United Launch expects to continue using the Atlas system until at least 2024.

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The company has 22 Atlas V launches, according to Austin Mueller, analyst at Canaccord Genuity, although some could be converted to the missile’s replacement, the Vulcan.

The Vulcan missile is supposed to be powered by engines Developed by Blue Origin LLC, the space company backed by the founder of Amazon.com Inc. Jeff Bezos. Blue Origin has experienced delays in delivering engines to United Launch.

Blue Origin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A United Launch spokeswoman said the Vulcan program is progressing well for its launch this year. Last month, United Launch CEO Tori Bruno said on Twitter that Blue Origin was making the engines in a factory, with employees from his company on hand to monitor and help.

On Tuesday, United Launch Atlas V lifted a weather and environment monitoring satellite into space for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

United Launch also plans to use the rocket to blast Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, intended for human missions, to the International Space Station. Last year, United Launch said Amazon would use an Atlas V rocket for nine launches related to its Project Kuiper satellite internet initiative.

Russia has delivered 122 RD-180 engines to the United States since the 1990s, of which 98 . was usedRogozin said, adding that Russia would no longer serve the remaining 24 engines.

Roscosmos also said in a tweet referring to the interview with Mr Rogozin that it will stop delivering the RD-181 engine to the US

Northrop Grumman, which uses this engine in the Antares rocket, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Northrop Grumman Antares missile is used To lift a cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station, which also houses Russian astronauts, for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The company conducted its latest supply launch last month, before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

In a briefing last month about the latest operation, Kurt Eberley, director of space launch programs for the company’s Launch and Missile Defense Systems unit, said the company has all the hardware it needs to complete cargo missions under a contract with NASA. “The best mitigation we can get is to buy in the future,” he said at the time.

NASA also depends on Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to handle cargo transfers to the space station. SpaceX also launches satellites belonging to the US government.

Mr. Musk on Thursday highlighted derogatory comments from Mr. Rogozin about US missile companies. Announcing the engine ban, the Roscosmos chief said, “Let them fly on something else, broomsticks, I don’t know what.”

Mr. Musk later appeared to refer to his company’s spacecraft as an “American broomstick” in a tweet after SpaceX deployed another batch of its broadband satellites into orbit.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine emphasized international space cooperation. Roscosmos has raised doubts about its future participation in the International Space Station and suspended its cooperation at the European launch site in French Guiana.

Satellite broadband company OneWeb said Thursday No longer launching satellites From a Russian spaceport in Kazakhstan. OneWeb is partly owned by the UK government.

On Wednesday, Roscosmos said it may block the launching of OneWeb communications satellites from the site in Kazakhstan unless it obtains guarantees that they will not be used for military purposes.

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Doug Cameron contributed to this post.