Defense Department acquisition chief Frank Kendall told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee Wednesday that DoD plans to continue to use the Russian RD-180 rocket engine technology until a U.S.-made replacement becomes available, Defense News reported Wednesday.
Joe Gould writes Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have supported the Pentagon’s strategy towards ending its reliance on RD-180 engines for military space launches.
“It’s a complicated issue, but the [Defense] Department’s goals have never changed, to develop two engines, so if one of them has a failure, and we have a big gap in capability, we still have access to space,” Kendall told subcommittee members.
Boeing and Lockheed Martin‘s joint venture United Launch Alliance uses the Russian-made technology to power its Atlas V rockets to help launch some national security satellites for the U.S. Air Force.
Congress temporarily lifted a U.S. ban on RD-180 procurements through the fiscal year 2016 appropriations bill.
The Air Force awarded a set of “other transaction” agreements earlier earlier this year to multiple companies to help the military service build alternative engines for the service branch’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.