22:53 GMT13 April 2021
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    Early suspension of US reliance on the Russian RD-180 rocket engines to deliver heavy payloads into space will cost US taxpayers as much as $5 billion, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — In 2014, the US Congress passed a law demanding the United States phase out its reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines it uses to launch national security and other heavy payloads to space.

    The law called for a shift to competitive, US-made rocket engines. The United Launch Alliance and Aerojet Rocketdyne were the confirmed recipients of Air Force contracts to build the RD-180 replacement.

    "That approach [using a new engine] would cost additional dollars to the Air Force budget to the taxpayer anywhere on the order of $1.5 billion more to maybe as high as $5 billion more, depending on when you would cut off the RD-180 and start this approach," James stated.

    In the two years after implementing a purchasing ban on the RD-180, the US Congress has been forced to lift that ban to ensure its access to space on the Atlas V rocket, powered by the Russian rocket engine.


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