Ban on Russian-Made Rocket Engines Could Leave US Space Program in Limbo

RD-180 rocket engine


The US government shouldn’t make a hasty decision and stop the use of the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines; otherwise it would hinder US access to space, Senator Richard Shelby wrote for the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Some members of the US Congress, led by Senator John McCain, are against the fact that the US Air Force relies on RD-180 engines, imported from Russia, to get to space. McCain, who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, argues that Washington should stop buying the RD-180, a cost-effective booster engine with unique features, which powers he Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.

However, Shelby argued that stopping the use of Russian rocket engines immediately would limit US access to space.

“If we do so hastily, the result could leave our military in a dangerous predicament,” Shelby said, as cited by the WSJ.

According to Shelby, the Russian-made engine should be used until a reliable US alternative would become available.By seeking to ban the RD-180, McCain wants to “eliminate competition” for his personal friend Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX. If McCain’s proposal passes it would give SpaceX, which in the past had many delays, technical failures and crashes, a monopoly on national security measures. It’s also worth noting that SpaceX is yet to launch a single mission to space, Shelby explained.

Everyone knows McCain is not particularly fond of Russia and President Vladimir Putin, but if he genuinely wants to ban Russian imports, why doesn’t he ban other items from Russia — for example, ammunition, oil and petroleum products?


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