Russia halts rocket engine deliveries to US

Russia halts rocket engine deliveries to the United States, but the space launch company owned by Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. said she had enough of these engines on hand for future missions.

“In a situation like this, we simply can no longer supply the United States with our world-class rocket engines,” Dmitry Rogozin, director general of the well-known Russian space agency, told state television on Thursday. under the name of Roscosmos, announcing the shutdown of the engine. exports.

The United States has long planned to end its reliance on Russian rocket engines, but efforts have been bogged down by technical and funding issues that have prompted the Pentagon to continue using Russian-made engines for several more years. than originally planned.

A senior Pentagon official said he had heard no major concerns about access to US space affected by the decision.

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

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

A spokeswoman for the joint venture said it has the RD-180 engines needed to complete space missions on the Atlas V for current customers. Those engines are stored at a factory in Decatur, Alabama, she said.

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

The company has planned 22 Atlas V launches, according to Canaccord Genuity analyst Austin Moeller, although some may be shifted to the rocket’s replacement, the Vulcan.

The Vulcan rocket is believed to be powered by engines developed by Blue Origin LLC, the space company backed by Inc. founder Jeff Bezos. Blue Origin faced delays in delivering the engines to United Launch.

Blue Origin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The United Launch spokeswoman said the Vulcan program is progressing well for a launch this year. Last month, Tory Bruno, managing director of United Launch, said on Twitter that Blue Origin was building the engines in a factory, with staff from his company on site to monitor and assist.

On Tuesday, a United Launch Atlas V sent a weather and environmental 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 the 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 have been used, Rogozin said, adding that Russia would no longer service the remaining 24 engines.

Roscosmos also said in a tweet referring to the interview with Mr. Rogozin that it would cease deliveries of the RD-181 engine to the United States.

Northrop Grumman Corp., which uses the engine on its Antares rocket, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Northrop Grumman uses the Antares rocket to ferry a cargo-filled spacecraft to the International Space Station, which is also home to Russian cosmonauts, for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The company made the last supply launch last month, before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

Kurt Eberly, director of space launch programs in the company’s Launch and Missile Defense Systems unit, said during a briefing last month on the latest operation that the company has all the equipment needed to perform cargo missions under contract with NASA. “The best mitigation we can have is buying ahead,” he said then.

NASA also relies on Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of Elon Musk, or SpaceX, to manage cargo trips to the space station. SpaceX also launches US government satellites.

On Thursday, Mr. Musk shed light on Mr. Rogozin’s derogatory comments about US rocket companies. The head of Roscosmos said, announcing the motor ban: “Let them fly on something else, their brooms, I don’t know what.”

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

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has emphasized international space cooperation. Roscosmos has raised doubts about its future involvement with the International Space Station and has suspended cooperation on the European launch site in French Guiana.

Satellite broadband company OneWeb said on Thursday it would suspend satellite launches from a Russian spaceport in Kazakhstan. The day before, Roscosmos had threatened to block the launch of the company’s communications satellites unless it received guarantees that they would not be used for military purposes.

OneWeb is partly owned by the UK government. Roscosmos suggested the UK should cede the stake, an idea the UK government quickly rejected.

— Doug Cameron contributed to this post.

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