Russian sales of RD-180 engines, used in the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, have been blocked, according to various news sources. (United Launch Alliance)
WASHINGTON — The escalating sanctions war between the US and Russia has claimed its latest victim, with potentially devastating long-term implications for the sole provider of military launch for the US Air Force.
Russian officials have decided to block the sale of RD-180 engines, used in the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, for any Pentagon-related programs, multiple news sources have reported.
The news appears to have been confirmed by Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on his English-language twitter account, @DRogozin.
“Russia is ready to continue deliveries of RD-180 engines to the US only under the guarantee that they won’t be used in the interests of the Pentagon,” he tweeted earlier today.
Rogozin has used his twitter account to bash American policies, particularly in the wake of US sanctions imposed against him and other Russian officials as a result of the crisis in Ukraine.
The news comes just days after a judge lifted a temporary injunction against the purchase of RD-180s over concern it could violate sanctions against Rogozin. The engines are produced by NPO Energomash, which is controlled by Rogozin.
That injunction was the result of a decision by ULA competitor SpaceX to file a protest lawsuit against the Air Force over a decision to award ULA a sole-source contract for 36 launches.
“ULA and our NPO Energomash supplier in Russia are not aware of any restrictions,” ULA spokesperson Jessica Rye wrote in a statement. “However, if recent news reports are accurate, it affirms that SpaceX’s irresponsible actions have created unnecessary distractions, threatened U.S. military satellite operations, and undermined our future relationship with the International Space Station.”
“We are hopeful that our two nations will engage in productive conversations over the coming months that will resolve the matter quickly.”
Cutting off the supply of RD-180 engines won’t have much short-term impact, as ULA has a two year stockpile of the engines. The company can also launch aboard its Delta IV design, which doesn’t use the RD-180. But if the trade restriction drags on, ULA could need to begin the procurement of new engines. ■