Russia to halt U.S. space program?Submitted by hector1986 on Wed, 08/28/2013 - 10:37
Russian rocket engine export ban could halt US space program (Russia Today)
An unnamed representative of Russia’s Federal Space Agency told the Izvestia newspaper that the Security Council is reconsidering the role of Russia’s space industry in the American space exploration program, particularly the 2012 contract to deliver the US heavy-duty RD-180 rocket engines. Previously, Moscow has not objected to the fact that America’s Atlas V boosters, rigged with Russian rocket engines, deliver advanced space armament systems into orbit. If a ban were to be put in place, however, engine delivery to the US would probably stop altogether, beginning in 2015. It is widely believed that many Atlas V launches carry a military payload. A ban could also affect the US’s non-military space exploration launches, which are also highly dependent on the Atlas V rocket and RD-180 engines. A number of experts told Izvestia that termination of the rocket engine contract would not be a good idea commercially for NPO Energomash, which produces the rockets, as at the moment it exclusively makes RD-180 engines for the US space industry. The rockets typically take Energomash 16 months to produce. If production of the RD-180 engine is halted, the enterprise would have to find other contracts to keep its production line and experienced staff busy. Many space experts believe that the US would find it difficult to quickly replace the Russian-made rocket boosters. Meanwhile, Energomash could soon find other orders elsewhere. Russia plans to start space launches from its new, multibillion-dollar Vostochny cosmodrome in the Far East in 2015. Vostochny will host a heavy rocket class launch pad, which means the producer of world’s most powerful rocket engines will be kept busy for many years to come. A specially created joint venture, RD-AMROSS, between NPO Energomash and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, has already delivered 63 engines to the US worth $11-15 million apiece, reportedly 40 of them have already been used. In December 2012, a new contract was signed to deliver another 31 engines. But this contract is now being reconsidered by Russia’s Security Council, according to Izvestia. The RD-AMROSS joint venture has always been controversial for Russia’s military. In 2011 Russia’s Audit Chamber announced that the RD-180 rocket engines delivered to the US according to the 1996 contract were sold for only half of their real production value. The total loss in 2008-09 reached 880 million rubles (about $30 million) or 68 percent of all financial losses of NPO Energomash at the time, the Audit Chamber said.