RD-180s OK For Now

The Pentagon is waiting on a formal opinion from the Treasury Department, but right now, “sanctions do not affect our ability to buy the RD-180,” Unders?ecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Frank Kendall said Tuesday at a Washington Space Business Roundtable lunch. The fact that the rocket engine, which powers the United Launch Alliance Atlas V, is made in Russia, has raised some “understandable concerns,” Kendall said. But the DOD’s view has been that “until we can find a replacement, we need to continue to rely on the RD-180 as the most cost-effective way for us to get some of our payloads, at least, into space,” he said. The Pentagon does not want to just fund an engine to replace the RD-180, Kendall said, because that would be “effectively subsidizing one launch service provider.” For now, the DOD is “trying to work our way through this minefield,” he said. “I’m hopeful that we can work our way through this and get to a place that makes sense.” Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves on Feb. 19 said that simply replacing the RD-180 with a new engine could result in a system that delivers less payload at a higher cost. But, he said, if the Treasury determines DOD can’t use the engines because of sanctions, the military won’t use them. “If we’re not supposed to be flying the RD-180s, they’re grounded,” Greaves said. “We will not violate the law.”