Ukrainian crisis: US Government to examine building RD-180 rocket engines in USA rather than in Russia

by | Mar 18, 2014 | commercial launch services, History, Russia, Technology | 0 comments

As our Ukranian crisis analysis predicted, the US Government is now concerned that a Russian-built rocket engine, the RD-180, is being used to power United Launch Alliance (ULA)-operated Atlas V launch vehicle, one of two types the US Department of Defence currently relies  on to launch its satellites.  It is now looking for alternatives including building RD-180 engines within USA.

While US rocket technology is known to be superior in LOx (liquid oxygen)/Liquid Hydrogen cryogenic rocket engines, the Russians are known to have more efficient rocket cycles for first stage LOx/Kerosene burning engines.  The RD-180 uses an oxygen-rich preburner in a high pressure staged-combustion cycle. This was the reason that the Russian made RD-180 was selected to power the first stage of the Atlas V.  The engines are officially supplied (actually imported) by RD AMROSS which was originally a joint US Russian firm which originally consisted of the US rocket firm Pratt and Whitney/Rocketdyne (now part of Aerojet Rocketdyne) and the Russian rocket firm Energomash.

According to Space News, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has openly called for a review of the decision to use Russian-built engines. In a subsequent report by Defence Daily, the Air Force Under Secretary Eric Fanning has announced that the US Air Force is now performing an analysis of how much it would cost to produce the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine in USA.  RD AMROSS technically has a license to manufacture the RD-180 engine in the United States if ordered to by ULA or the US Department of Defence (DoD).

It is not just Russian hardware and services that the US DoD wants to become independent from.  According to reports, the US DoD has recently announced that it is to end its  controversial lease of capacity on Apstar 7, a communications satellite that is owned by APT Satellite Holdings which is majority owned by the Government of China via the state-owned China Aerospace Science & Technology Corp.


About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to

Related Articles

Orbital Sciences ends legal action against ULA and RD AMROSS over supply of RD-180 rocket engines

As it attempts to find a suitable replacement engine for its Antares launch vehicle, given its dwindling supply of its 1960s-vintage NK-33 engines which Read more

ULA Atlas V puts GOES-T (GOES-18) into orbit

An Atlas V 541 rocket operated by the Boeing/Lockheed Martin concern, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully put the GOES-T Read more

Analysis: Putin orders Russian tanks to roll into Ukraine…and spaceflight will be affected (Updated/Corrected)

On 21 February, Russia’s President Putin ordered troops and tanks into disputed territories of Donetsk and Luhansk for “peacekeeping”, which Read more

Amazon selects ULA Atlas V launches for upcoming LEO constellation Project Kuiper

Amazon has made its first official contract award for its future LEO satellite internet constellation – known as Project Kuiper. The award, Read more

ULA and SpaceX share spoils of US Air Force contracts 60:40 as Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman are left out

On behalf of the US Department of Defense, the US Air Force has awarded launch contracts as part of the Read more

X-37B/OTV-6 minispaceplane mission and Falconsat 8 is launched to orbit on Atlas V

At 1314 GMT on 17 May, an Atlas V 501 rocket lifted off from its pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Read more

Solar Orbiter (SolO) on its way after successful Atlas V launch

The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter (SolO) mission has been sent on its way by an Atlas V 411 rocket Read more

US Air Force starts to make payments to cap off final EELV launches

Due to mission delays putting some of its launches beyond 30 Sept 2019, the US Air Force Missiles and Space Read more