“Roskosmos” turned off the engine in the US space program

The head of Roskosmos announced the freezing of deliveries of rocket engines to the US and termination of service for the previously sold Dmitry Rogozin. The director of the state-owned company explained the decision with the sanctions imposed by Western countries on the Russian Federation for a special military operation in Ukraine. In recent days, the company has taken many steps to break long-standing contacts with European partners: the withdrawal of specialists from the Kourou cosmodrome in French Guiana, the termination of cooperation with Germany to conduct joint space experiments on the ISS, the cancellation of OneWeb satellite launches planned for it March 5th. Rogozin announced the losses of Western partners from the completion of projects, but the Russian side will also suffer significant losses.

Thrifty Yankees

Dmitry Rogozin said that since the mid-1990s, RD-180 and RD-181 engines manufactured by NPO Energomash JSC have been quite actively exported abroad. Since then, they have been used by the Americans for the Atlas 5 rockets, as well as for the first stage of the Antares rocket. However, events in Ukraine dramatically changed the situation, and the Russian side decided to freeze the supply and fulfillment of obligations for maintenance of engines. “Let them fly on something else, their brooms, I do not know what. But we will at least freeze our supplies,” said the head of Roskosmos. Abroad, fears have already been expressed that their operation will be quite dangerous, in the face of failure to maintain engines, because it is filled with accidents.

At the same time, already in August last year, Dmitry Rogozin said that the export of engines to the states was extremely beneficial for his company, as this was a “significant income” and also prestigious. He added that America “could not create” such engines. The head of the company also stressed that the contracts signed by the parties contain a clause prohibiting the use of engines to launch military objects into outer space.

In 2021, the Russian side handed over to the United States at least a dozen RD-180/181 rocket engines. Throughout the cooperation period in this direction, the Americans received 122 RD-180 engines (98 were used and 24 are in stock), as well as 26 engines (22 were used, 4 were in stock).

During 2022-2024, it was planned to deliver another 12 products. In addition, the modernization of the RD-181M was planned to increase its carrying capacity. The export of these engines abroad is an extremely important source of income for Energomash: Roscosmo’s First Deputy CEO Maxim Ovchinnikov reported to Interfax that he comes with about a third of the company’s revenue – 10-13 billion rubles. Scientific director of the Institute of Space Policy Ivan Moiseev Considers that the importance of these trade relations should not be overestimated;

– This contract is not very large by industry standards and amounts to about 200 million dollars for 20 engines. In addition, the contract includes not only the delivery of engines, but also installation work, regular inspections and more, he tells Octagon.

According to him, the Russian engine was used for Antares rockets that delivered cargo to the ISS. After deliveries cease, Americans will, of course, look for other alternatives. But in the near future, they will use the RD-181 they have in stock (four units left), then send cargo with Atlas-5 rockets powered by RD-180 (which does not differ too radically from the subsequent model) , and then move on to Dragon-9 Space X, which will reduce the cost of launches. The interlocutor recalled that the Americans had already tested a similar alternative in 2014, when after the accident they returned to firing Atlas-5 missiles for a while, but then switched to Antares again.

“For them, this will cause difficulties, losses in time, but it is unlikely to be critical.”


Ivan Moiseev
Scientific Director of the Space Policy Institute

“The amount of work they will need to complete will take several months, up to a year. But Energomash, in the event of a contract loss, will lose the ability to supply engines by 2031, which is about $ 400 million,” Moiseev said.

Is there no alternative?

In the interview mentioned above, Ovchinnikov, Roskosmos’ first deputy director general, noted that a cessation of supplies to America would be a rather serious blow to Energomash, but the state-owned company is looking for alternatives to supply engines to other parties and is trying to stop the dependence. by one, two or three customers. Ivan Moiseev does not understand how such a search for alternatives can be put into practice.

– Usually you work first with the general characteristics of the rocket, and then make an engine for it, because you have to understand for what purposes to create an engine. You can not work on the engine first and then look for the rocket after that – it’s like starting to build a house from the roof. Building an engine for a rocket takes about three years. “Once we tried to adapt the RD-180 for the Soyuz-6 launch vehicle, but so far it has not worked,” he explained.

Installation of a rocket engine at NPO Energomash JSC.Installation of a rocket engine at NPO Energomash JSC.Photo: Mikhail Metzel / TASS

Appeared in telegram channels messagesthat the suspension of deliveries of Russian rocket engines to the United States will hit hard on the US Vulcan program, which began in 2006 as a project to create a heavy rocket to resume flights to the moon. The implementation of the $ 15 billion program is in its early stages. According to Moiseev, these assessments are still deeply inaccurate.

“The project to create Vulcan was an attempt to abandon the Atlas-5 rocket with RD-180, it is made by a completely different company, and our engines do not affect its course,” he said.

As early as 2016, the US Congress banned the Pentagon from using the Atlas-5 with the RD-180 after 2022, but the US military will most likely be forced to continue propelling the rocket, as Blue Oregon, which develops the BE-4 lunar engine, is experiencing serious technical problems that do not allow development to reach the finish line.

Corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics Andrey Ionin I am convinced that the new US lunar program has in fact already been buried for political reasons.

– This program was announced Donald Trump as a symbol of American rebirth. The landing on Earth’s satellite was scheduled for 2024 – towards the end, as he hoped, of the second presidential term. Administration Biden in general other priorities – and she is constantly shifting her deadlines. The latest shift took place in 2026 under the ridiculous pretext that spacesuits were not available. In fact, this is such a form of its soft folding and forgetfulness, – the expert is sure.

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