Wallops: Ukrainian rocket plant ‘structurally intact’, but Russia halts engine sales to US | Business
By MICHAEL MARTZ Richmond Times-Dispatch
The future of Antares space station resupply missions from Wallops Island remains uncertain, despite good news from Ukraine about the factory complex that designs and manufactures rocket bodies for platform launches. -state-owned form on the east coast barrier island.
The US government confirmed on Thursday that the Dnipro complex in Ukraine was “structurally intact”, despite earlier unconfirmed reports that the Yuzhnoye State Design Office and the Yuzhmash Machinery Building had been destroyed. by missile strikes when the Russian military invasion began on February 24.
The complex produces the first-stage assemblies of Antares rockets to resupply the International Space Station under contracts between Northrop Grumman Corp. and NASA.
But the good news was tempered by Thursday’s announcement in Russian media that Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, would no longer allow the sale and delivery of engines used in the Antares program to the United States.
“Today we made the decision to stop deliveries of rocket engines produced by NPO Energomash to the United States,” Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin said in a television interview reported by TASS, the agency Russian government press. “Let me remind you that these deliveries had been quite intensive somewhere since the mid-1990s.”
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The Russian move came in response to sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies against invading Ukraine. President Joe Biden has said the sanctions include cuts to US technology exports to Russia which he said would “degrade their aerospace industry, including their space program.”
According to a Reuters report, Rogozin said in the television interview: “In a situation like this, we cannot supply the United States with the best rocket engines in the world. Let them fly on something else, their brooms, I don’t know what.
The ban has applied to RD-181 rocket engines used in the Antares program since 2016, two years after a rocket powered by a rebuilt Russian engine exploded moments after launch and caused $20 million in damage to the state platform next to the Atlantic Ocean.
This also applies to the RD-180 engines that the United Launch Alliance uses to power the Atlas V rocket, which was used to launch the Cygnus spacecraft for Northrop Grumman’s resupply missions to the space station after the failed launch of Antares in October 2014.
Northrop Grumman and ULA say they had stockpiled material for future launches. At a press conference ahead of the final Antares launch from Wallops on Feb. 19, Northrop Grumman Space Launch Program Manager Kurt Eberly said the company has all the components it needs for the resupply missions planned for this year.
“The best mitigation we can have is buying ahead,” Eberly said, according to a report by The Space Review. “Hopefully this will help us until these tensions can subside and we can return to normal operating procedure.”
Fairfax County-based Northrop Grumman has said little since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.
The company referred all questions about US sanctions to NASA, but said “we have all the hardware necessary to complete our NASA-contracted missions on Antares.”
John Logsdon, founder and former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said Friday: “I would call it very uncertain.”
Logsdon was pleased that the Yuzhnoye/Yuzhmash complex was not destroyed, but he said, “Producing a complex piece of equipment, even if the factory is intact, in the middle of a combat zone is quite risky.
The future of the International Space Station itself is uncertain after Rogozin lambasted US sanctions on Twitter and suggested they could “destroy our cooperation” in the program. Subsequently, Russia halted launches to the space station for Europe from French Guiana.
“So far, NASA’s perspective is that we continue to cooperate with the Russians where we can, especially with the International Space Station,” said Rep. Don Beyer, D-8e, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. .
“At the same time, it’s hard to imagine moving forward on additional projects together.”
“It’s definitely a victim,” Beyer said, “and there are many victims of this invasion.”