Earlier this month Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that Moscow could ban sale of RD-180 rockets to the United States, and may even reject its request to use the International Space Station after 2020. This would be Kremlin’s response over sanctions placed after the annexation of Crimea. Rogozin said that Russia would deliver the rockets if the U.S. guarantees that they won’t be used to launch military satellites. However with as many as 38 missions on the manifest, a study commissioned by the Defense Department reveals that this may end up costing the U.S. $5 billion.
If Russia stops selling the RD-180 rockets the U.S. Atlas 5, one of the military’s two main satellite launchers, would be temporarily grounded as a result delaying up to 31 missions. According to the report even though 38 Atlas 5 missions are on the manifest the United Launch Alliance and RD-Amross only have 16 RD-180 engines left.
Russia’s NPO Energomash builds the rocket engine which is sold to the ULA by RD-Amross, which is a joint venture between United Technologies Group and Energomash. Since there are no concrete signs that the ban has been put in place, the report suggests that the U.S. accelerate the pace at which it purchases the RD-180s “to mitigate current risk and preserve future options.”
If nine missions are delayed for an average of two years it will cost taxpayers around $2.5 billion, this is considered as a best case scenario by the report. Worst case scenario is that 31 missions would be delayed for an average of 3.5 years costing $5 billion. Notwithstanding the RD-180’s viability the report stresses that the “U.S. needs to develop a domestic engine.”
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