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Ukraine proposes to US joint production of rocket engines to replace Russia’s RD-180

May 30, 19:35 UTC+3 KIEV
The debate in the United States around purchasing of Russia’s RD-180 rocket engine started after US-Russian relations sharply deteriorated over the crisis in Ukraine
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©  ITAR-TASS/Alexei Filippov

KIEV, May 30. /TASS/. Ukraine has proposed to the United States joint development and production of rocket engines to replace Russia’s RD-180 that the US side buys for its space industry, head of the State Space Agency of Ukraine (SSAU) Lyubomyr Sabadosh said on Monday, commenting on the results of a Ukrainian delegation’s visit to the United States on May 23-27.

"We have proposes using our capabilities for implementing a joint design solution for the production of a liquid propellant engine, which is currently purchased in the Russian Federation. Our partners have an understanding that it's quite a complicated task, but we can cope with it, and the discussion will take place at the level of professional experts," he is quoted by the UNIAN news agency.

According to Sabadosh, the US experts expressed interest in the supplies of engines to replace the Russian ones. The SSAU head said that during future negotiations between the sides that will be held in Kiev in November, they should discuss the timeframe of the development, conducting tests, as well as the funding.

Last week, the SSAU management held talks with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on deepening cooperation between Ukraine and the United States and on the implementation of joint projects in the space industry.

The debate in the United States around purchasing of Russia’s RD-180 rocket engine started after US-Russian relations sharply deteriorated over the crisis in Ukraine. Several members of Congress proposed to immediately refuse from these engines, and one of the main supporters of this idea is the Republican Senator John McCain. However, the US House of Representatives at a meeting on May 18 adopted a draft budget of the Department of Defense for 2017 fiscal year in which supported the amendment that guarantees the purchase of 18 Russia’s RD-180 rocket engines, which are currently mounted on the Atlas-V launch vehicle.

The Pentagon says that the sharp refusal to use the RD-180 engine would deprive the US of the possibility to place satellites into orbit. The Department of Defense plans that by 2019 the US companies will develop their own launch system.

In 2014, the United States said it decided to not to use the RD-180 engines during the launches of its military and intelligence satellites citing national security reasons and the escalation of relations with Russia amid the Ukrainian crisis. The US Congress allocated funds to this aim and adopted a bill under which a new US engine has to be developed by 2019. Until that time, the United Launch Alliance created by the Lockheed Martin and Boeing companies will continue using Atlas-V with the Russian engine manufactured by the Energomash plant.

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