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Rocket engines ban may lead to $5 billion losses to US

May 22, 2014, 16:54 UTC+3 WASHINGTON

They are used to launch Atlas-5 carrier rockets designed by Lockheed-Martin Corporation for military projects

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RD-180 engine (archive)

RD-180 engine (archive)

© ITAR-TASS/Yuri Mashkov

WASHINGTON, May 22. /ITAR-TASS/. Losses of some $5 billion are said to confront the United States if Russia goes ahead with the idea of halting delivery of rocket engines used to launch American defense satellites. Profits loss and the danger of closure threaten the engine-makers as well, its managers warn.

American military experts counted the cost after Russian Vice President Dmitry Rogozin and head of the Roscosmos space agency Oleg Ostapenko hinted last week that supplies of the RD-180 engine might not continue.

Calculations came from a group of experts led by retired Air Force General Mitch Mitchell and former NASA administrator Michael Griffin, assessing the implications of a Russian ban.

Engines have been delivered to the United States from the Energomash plant at Khimki, north of Moscow. They are used to launch Atlas-5 carrier rockets designed by Lockheed-Martin Corporation for military projects.

Reviewing project plans, the American experts warned in their report that while 38 Atlas launches were slated for coming years, only 16 Russian rockets were currently available.

The most optimistic scenario assessed that at least nine launches would be delayed due to engine shortages in the next two years, entailing losses of $2.5 billion. A pessimistic scenario assessed 31 thwarted launches within three-and-a-half years at a cost of some $5 billion.

The report authors say the US Defense Department should buy more rocket engines in Russia now, enlarging their stockpile to a maximum. These proposals have been confirmed by Energomash director Vladimir Solntsev, telling ITAR-TASS that the United States sought to increase engine deliveries by 2018 to 37 units instead of the planned 29.

Halting deliveries also poses problems for the Russian engine builder, however. Energomash management has warned that interrupted supply threatened production volumes, profits loss of around 60% and the danger of the enterprise going out of business.

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