MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The US Defense Department’s technical and funding challenges will result in Pentagon using the Russian RD-180 rocket engines until mid-2020s which is longer than it had initially been expected, local media reported on Monday.
The replacement issue is particularly important in the context of the timing of US space programs especially amid the rising tensions with Moscow, the newspaper noted.
The new US-build engine is reportedly expected to be fully tested by 2019 for the replacement rocket booster Vulcan to be certified for operation by 2022 or by 2023, the outlet added citing the United Launch. However, the company’s spokeswoman said that the missions of the current Atlas V carrier were extended until at least the mid-2020s when Vulcan would demonstrate its dependability, the publication pointed out.
This period is much longer than many US parliamentarians and industry officials have expected when calling on the Russian engine phase-out after Crimea rejoined Russia after a referendum in 2014 prompting criticism from Washington, according to the newspaper.
However, in December 2015, the US Congress passed a budget that includes a provision allowing the country to continue buying the Russian RD-180 rocket engines.
In July, Igor Arbuzov, CEO of the Russian Energomash rocket engine company, part of Roscosmos state space agency, said that the company planned the record supply of 11 RD-180 and four RD-181 rocket engines to the United States in 2017.