NASA To Use Russian RD-180 Rocket Beyond 2019……Russia To Use ISS To At Least 2024

Posted: February 27, 2015 in Econ 101, Sanctions on Russia Meaningless, Technology and Energy

SEE ALSO:  U.S. DoD Against Replacing Russian RD-180 Program

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Air Force Secretary Casts Doubt on RD-180 Replacement Schedule
by Mike Gruss — February 25, 2015

WASHINGTON — Three months after the U.S. Congress ordered the Air Force to wean itself from a Russian-built rocket engine routinely used to launch national security satellites, a top service official told lawmakers that the 2019 deadline set in the legislation is probably not feasible.

In December, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2015 that contained a measure mandating that the Defense Department replace the Russian RD-180 engine with an American-made alternative by 2019.

The RD-180 is the main engine on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, one of two vehicles the company uses to launch most U.S. government satellites and virtually all national security missions.

Air Force officials have since raised doubts about the 2019 timeline. Almost immediately after the bill’s passage, Gen. John Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command, described the schedule as “aggressive” and “challenging.”

But speaking to the Senate’s Appropriations defense subcommittee Feb. 25, Deborah Lee James, the secretary of the Air Force, used the service’s strongest language to date.

Deborah Lee James
“I’m not sure we can make it,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in response to a question from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), about being able to have an American alternative to the Russian-built RD-180 by 2019. Credit: U.S. Senate video capture

“I’m not sure we can make it,” James said in response to a question from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

“All of the technical experts with whom I have consulted have told me this is not a one- or two- or three-year deal,” James said. “You’re looking at six years, maybe seven years to develop an engine and another year or two beyond that to integrate. This truly is rocket science. These are hard technical problems and so to have that 2019 date there is pretty aggressive and I’m not sure we can make it. I turn to my technical experts. That’s what they tell us.”

Industry officials have said a new engine would cost at least $1 billion and take at least five years to develop.

The RD-180 is built by NPO Energomash of Russia and sold to ULA by RD-Amross, a joint venture between Energomash and United Technologies Corp. That arrangement has come under fire due to the deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations that accelerated in 2014 over the crisis in Ukraine.

The Air Force in 2013 awarded ULA an $11 billion sole-source contract for Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets that runs through 2019. The RD-180s ordered as part of this contract are exempt from the authorization legislation.

Meanwhile, in spite of the military-use ban, ULA is evaluating a proposal to purchase as many as 30 more RD-180 engines that the company says will be used in part for future commercial missions.

James said the Air Force would be open to “maybe some clarification in the law, some adjustment on that 2019 period.”

The legislation already allows for a waiver process for national security missions “if space launch services cannot be obtained at a fair and reasonable price without the use of the Russian RD-180 engines.”

But Air Force officials want to have several rockets at their disposal come 2019 to be able to procure launch services at competitive rates.

“A gap would be something that we would not wish to have,” James said.

Denver-based ULA’s other main rocket, the Delta 4, will be available, but is significantly more expensive than the Atlas 5.

The Falcon 9 rocket made by Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX also will be available and should be certified this year to launch national security satellites. SpaceX also is developing a Falcon Heavy rocket that is expected to debut this year.



U.S. Air Force sees issue with 2019 deadline for U.S. rocket engine

Feb 25, 2015

Feb 25 (Reuters) – The U.S. Air Force may miss a 2019 deadline for developing a U.S. engine to replace the Russian-built RD-180 motors that now power some rockets used to launch military satellites into space, Air Force Secretary Deborah James said Wednesday.

James told the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee that the 2019 congressional deadline was “pretty aggressive” given that it would likely take six to seven years to develop an alternate U.S.-built engine, plus another year to integrate the engine with rockets.

“The 2019 date is pretty aggressive and I’m not sure that we can make it,” James said, urging Congress to clarify the intention of a law passed last year that requires the Air Force to stop using the RD-180 engines.

Those engines now power the Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal)



Russia to use International Space Station till 2024

Moscow (AFP) – Russia will continue using the International Space Station in partnership with NASA until 2024, its space agency said, after Moscow had threatened to pull out and stop financing it by 2020.

Roscosmos has finalised a plan for its activities up to 2030 which “provides for the use of the ISS until 2024,” the space agency said in a statement late Tuesday.

It also announced plans to begin manned missions to the moon by 2030 but said its objectives would be adjusted according to financing.

“We are taking into account possible changes in financing and the programme will get updated,” Yury Koptev, the head of the agency’s scientific and technical committee, said.

NASA had already said the ageing ISS will remain operational until 2024, but Russia’s participation had been in question.

Russia had said it wanted to wind up its role in 2020 and in December delayed a final decision, while deputy defence minster Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the space industry, threatened to “use those resources on other promising space projects.”

Russia’s decision to postpone its departure from the ISS to 2024 is dictated by the current economic crisis, sparked by low oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine, said independent space analyst Vadim Lukashevich.

“All these hopes and dreams have been cancelled by the crisis. There’s no money for a new station,” Lukashevich told AFP.

“Clear-headed people decided to stay on the ISS. Otherwise we risk losing our manned space exploration.”

– Headed to the moon –

The decision was welcomed by NASA astronaut Chris Hadfield, famous for the 2013 cover of David Bowie’s song Space Oddity he performed on the ISS.

“This is excellent news, especially when read between the rhetoric. ISS is a key global symbol,” Hadfield wrote on Twitter.

Russia’s space agency said its long-term plan was to create its own space station using modules from the Russian section of the ISS after it is mothballed.

“This is absolutely rational. They will be relatively new and not obsolete,” said Lukashevich.

The space agency said it wanted “to ensure Russia’s guaranteed access to space.”

Russia’s space agency also announced plans to renew its lunar programme, which will start with unmanned spacecraft that will orbit and land on the moon’s surface.

“Close to 2030, the plan is to move over to manned flights to the moon,” it said.

Russia’s space programme is one area where Moscow is still actively working with the US. Sixteen countries are involved in the ISS, with Russia and the US providing most of the financial backing.

Russia’s leadership has recently fired senior officials at the space agency and carried out restructuring after embarrassing and costly failures of rockets carrying satellites and cargo to the ISS.

Since the termination of the US shuttle programme, Russia is the only country able to ferry astronauts to the international station. This year it is set to carry the first space tourist since 2009, British soprano Sarah Brightman.



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