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Air Force Sec. Deborah James Wants 2019 Deadline Extended for US-Made Rocket Engine

Deborah Lee James
Deborah Lee James

The U.S. Air Force is seeking extension of a congressionally approved 2019 deadline for the completion of an American-made rocket engine for use in national security missions, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Air Force Secretary Deborah James told a Senate defense subcommittee that the service is unlikely to meet the schedule as it could take up to eight years to develop the engine and another two years to integrate the system into existing rockets, Andrea Shalal reports.

James called on lawmakers to adjust the law Congress passed in December 2014 that requires the Air Force to build an alternative to the Russian-built RD-180 engine by 2019, according to a Space News article.

U.S. legislators and military officials have sought to end the nation’s use of Russian rocket engines on satellite launch missions since the territorial conflict between Russia and Ukraine erupted last year, Reuters reports.

Shalal writes the Air Force plans to release a roadmap for replacing the RD-180 motors within months, the report says.

James said the service is also working to certify Space Exploration Technologies as another launch provider in addition to United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, according to Reuters.

ULA uses the RD-180 as the main engine on its Atlas 5 rocket that is used to send national security satellites into space, Space News’ Mike Gruss writes.

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