WASHINGTON, June 17. /ITAR-TASS/. United Launch Alliance corporation, which was set up by Boeing and Lockheed Martin companies, has signed agreements with a number of US companies for designing a new-generation rocket engine that will replace the Russian liquid fuel engine RD-180, the company’s officials said Monday.
At this stage, the project is at its research stage. Each contractor will be expected to submit a feasibility study, schedule of works and cost estimates. Also, the company will be expected to consider possible risks.
Later on, United Launch Alliance will select the company which will design the new engine. The first space launches have been scheduled for 2019 at the earliest.
United Launch Alliance Michael Grass said the use of Russian RD-180 engines was quite successful, but now it was time to invest in the production of its own original engines.
Simultaneously with this, the corporation says it plans to continue joint efforts with Russian-US company RD-Amros to study long-term profitability of utilizing RD-180 versus the new engine.
Cooperation with Russia
In mid-May, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and the director of Russia’s Space Agency, Oleg Ostapenko, told a news briefing in Moscow that Russia might stop exporting rocket engines to the US if the Americans continued using them for launching military satellites.
In this connection, politicians and experts in the US are intensively mulling over the possibility of developing an original American engine capable of turning in an alternative to RD-180.
The latter engines built by the Energomash corporation in the city of Khimki near Moscow are installed at stage one of the Atlas-5 carrier rocket.
Together with Delta-4 rocket produced by Boeing, Atlas-5 has long become Pentagon’s workhorse.
Two giants of the US aerospace industry set up the ULA joint venture, which has a multi-billion and long-term contract with the Department of Defense for the launches of spy satellites.