“They [Russians] are actually doing a very good job and they are being very responsive. The quality is maintained high and we have had no issues with supply from them […] They have been delivering ahead of need and they still owe me some”, Bruno said.
The ULA has some two years’ worth number of the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines, Bruno told Sputnik.
“I have quite a bit of inventory in country now […] I won’t say how many but I have lots of engines. I have more than a couple years’ worth in country now”, Bruno said.
However, Bruno could not clarify if there is a need for more RD-180 engines after 2022. “I don’t know yet. I literally just don’t know”, Bruno said when asked whether the company will need RD-180 rocket engines after 2022.
The US space program relies on the Russian-built and supplied RD-180 engines to power the first stage of the Atlas V rocket, the only US vehicle now capable of sending heavy payloads. RD-180 is developed and manufactured by the Russian company Energomash, and is designed for the use in US Atlas carrier rockets.
US lawmakers passed a law requiring the United States to develop a domestically produced next-generation rocket propulsion system by 2019 in order to eliminate reliance on the RD-180s. However, in 2015, the ban was canceled and then, in 2016, the US Senate decided to continue purchasing the Russian RD-180 rocket engines to launch payloads into space until 2022.