WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — This week, Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain attempted to cut off any further purchase of the Russian engines, proposing US companies compete to provide the United States with a reliable, domestic space launch platform.
"We worked it out," Shelby said on Friday of the contentious debate over language in the 2017 defense spending bill to continue the use of the RD-180.
"The deal is 2022 and 18 rockets, similar to the House [defense bill]."
On Thursday night, the Senate was scrambling to reach an agreement on whether to prolong the use of the Russian engines. Senator Bill Nelson described the situation to Sputnik as "a firm state of flux."
McCain argued that the continued US purchase of the RD-180 engine, used in the Atlas 5 rocket, benefits Russian officials that have been sanctioned by the United States. Those individuals include Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, CEO of Rostec Corporation, Sergey Chemezov, and the head of Roscosmos, Igor Komarov.
Opponents of McCain’s measure argued that abruptly ending the use of the Russian engines could jeopardize US access to space and fast-tracking a new space launch platform or engine could cost up to $1.5 billion.
US President Barack Obama threatened to veto the Senate defense bill if it included restrictions on RD-180 purchases that would jeopardize US access to space. The defense bill cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate early on Friday morning. A final vote on the legislation is expected next week.
The two largest US defense contractors, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, use the RD-180 engine in their joint venture, the United Launch Alliance (ULA).