Roscosmos subsidiary Energomash is preparing to deliver three more RD-180 engines for use with Atlas-5 launch vehicles, the company reported on Friday.
“A commission has completed its work at NPO Energomash JSC on accepting the next batch of RD-180 rocket engines manufactured at the enterprise. Representatives from Pratt & Whitney, United Launch Alliance and AMROSS have signed the paperwork on three commercial engines,” the company said in a press release.
These companies as well as representatives from NASA and the US Air Force were said to have spent two weeks inspecting the engines and the associated accessories, spare parts and tools, as well as the accompanying documentation.
The delivery was said to be the second in 2019, with the engines currently being prepared for shipment. Energomash already shipped three RD-180 rocket engines to the United States in June as part of a separate contract.
Since 1999, Lockheed Martin Atlas III and Atlas V launch vehicles have made at least 86 flights using the RD-180. According to Energomash figures, the US has now received 116 such engines.
In addition to the RD-180, the Russian rocket engine maker also produces the RD-181 for the Antares, an expendable launch system developed by Northrop Grumman subsidiary Orbital Sciences Corporation. The RD-181 is a modified version of the RD-191, derived from the RD-180.
The company also manufactures RD-191 liquid-propellant rocket engines for Russia’s Angara launch vehicle, as well as the RD-171MV engine for the Soyuz-5 rocket.
In addition to the United States, India has expressed interest in the RD-180 series of engines, possibly for its manned space programme.
US lawmakers have recently sought to curb the purchase of RD-180 engines as part of Washington’s package of economic sanctions against Moscow, passing a law obliging Washington to develop its own next-generation rocket propulsion system. The law, championed by late Arizona Senator John McCain, faced setbacks after the Senate permitted US companies to continue buying RD-180s until at least 2022. Roscosmos has already indicated that it would use the RD-180 aboard the Soyuz 2.1 launch vehicle if deliveries to the US were stopped.
The RD-180 is a derivative of the RD-170/171 series of rocket engines, created for the super-heavy Energiya launch vehicle, which could shuttle up to 100 tonnes of cargo into Low Earth orbit, and which was used to launch the Buran shuttle into space. In the late 1980s, this rocket was envisioned as the launch vehicle which would send up new space stations into orbit to succeed the Mir, and to prepare for missions to the Moon and Mars.