RD-180 engines on Atlas V

WASHINGTON: When the Air Force issued a Request for Information about an engine to replace the RD-180 it began to look as if they were serious about committing to build the first new rocket engine in decades.

But we also received two new RD-180 engines from Russia the same day as the RFI went out, the United Launch Alliance announced. That bolstered those who argue that Russia needs the revenue so much and is so committed to space cooperation that our sanctions against Russia to punish them for Ukraine will not stop the flow of the cheap, highly reliable engines. Three more engines are due to arrive this fall, and I’m betting they arrive.

Just to make sure the Air Force or OSD hadn’t snuck something past us, I checked to see if any policy decisions had been made or memos approved to allow spending for a new engine.

Here are the responses to my questions about whether a policy decision has been made to proceed with a new engine or to create a budget line to find one from Maj. Eric Badger, Air Force spokesman:

“No, there has not been a policy decision made to buy a new

“No, the decision for a new budget line has not been made.”

The answer about the budget line is intriguing. It certainly seems to indicate that a new budget line is being discussed. As any acquisition aficionado knows, creation of a budget line is tantamount to authorizing a new program.

Another element in all this is last Friday’s detonation of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket during a failed test. While the cause is unknown and the rocket tested wouldn’t be the same as the one used by the Defense Department, the process of Air Force certification looks at all the processes, successes and failures of the rocket’s builder. Just-retired Air Force Gen. William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, made clear he supported building a new engine and hoped for more competition. But SpaceX must receive certification from the Air Force before it can compete for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The controlled destruction of the missile last Friday may not mean anything in the long run. We’ll have to see.


  • Ztev Konrad

    I wonder if the Russians will perhaps not tighten up the screws as much as they should.

    • 2IDSGT

      That would be a good way to ensure that ULA gets its new American engine funded.

      • Gareth

        Why should ULA get a new engine funded? Let them pay for it themselves!

    • Krasniak

      Why should they tighten up the screws?

  • frank1946

    Political Risk rules the Question ? Air Force has signaled it’s preferences.

    Putin is just like Obama……………..emotions and ego.

  • Asteroid Al

    Because our government is run by a bunch of cowards and traitors, we no longer put American priorities first. Globalization and the multicultural anti-American crowd makes us dependent on other nations for a whole host of things. The RD-180 is just one example. Another example is sharing the F-35 with Turkey, a known financier of terrorism and sympathetic to Jihad. It is a big mistake to partner our space program with anyone and our national defense with other nations that are hostile to the US (read Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia, etc). Our quest for space exploration should be a purely an American affair. When man arrives at Mars, what flag will be planted there? The UN flag or the American flag that represents the best of values? Our last four presidents have been a disaster because they have embraced the so called New Order. Time to get out of the globalization game and chart our own course. Space exploration would be a great place to start.

    • Mike

      Ya, I vaguely remember “Bush the dumber” telling the American People that he had looked into Putin’s eyes and thought he could do business with him….. Boy was that about the dumbest,….. :( I believe that was just before Cheney/bush let our oil companies go to Russia where they rebuilt the Russian Oil and Gas facilities, the new profits from which are now being used to rebuild the Russian Forces which are recreating the Soviet Union……. :(

      • Bob

        Think Killery’s and Barrie’s Reset had anything to do with it?
        We could destroy Russia’s economy if Barrie would get with the Drill Baby Drill Program and Export Natural Gas! Bush knew how to keep Putin in check, with American World Leadership! Barry the Dumb has Destroyed it all through Cowardly Actions and Indecision!

  • blue yonder

    As Russian invades Ukraine. Way to go Air Force

  • 10579

    globialization and the NWO has put the USA on a spiral down to a third world nation.Why do we have to buy any thing from Russia.Don’t we have sanctions against Russia, and yet we are purchasing 2 rocket engines from them.We have built some of the most powerful and reliable rocket engines in the world.Why not have America build our own. Oh that money would have to come from the government who is lead by incompedent egotistical know nothings who are aligned with the Russians and the American communist party and that of Russia.Remember Obama when he said to the Russian president Medevev(sorry Don’t know how to spell his name) “tell Putin when I am reelected I will have more leway”I hope we get a president with a set of nuts in 2016.

    • Yolandar Aguilar

      nononono … you’re not voting for Hillary, I suppose :-)

  • Jim5437532

    Elon Musk has dreams of explosions. SpaceX’s and Tesla’s products explode.

    • Gary Church

      We don’t need a new kerosene rocket engine. What a scam.