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Russia to supply two batches of rocket engines to US

The contract for the delivery of RD-181s was signed in 2014

MOSCOW, June 15. /TASS/. Russia will supply two batches of RD-180 and RD-181 rocket engines to the United States in 2018, Chief Designer of Energomash Scientific and Production Association (the engines’ developer) Pyotr Lyovochkin told TASS on Friday.

"Currently, the production of commercial engines at Energomash is proceeding in compliance with the contracts signed. The dispatch of the first batch of RD-180 and RD-181 engines to the United States is planned for the second quarter of 2018," the chief designer said.

"And the next batch of these engines will be supplied to the customer at the end of the year," he said, without specifying the number of engines.

Energomash delivers RD-180 engines for US Atlas III and Atlas V rockets and RD-181 engines for Antares launch vehicles. The contracts for both types of the engines are valid through the end of 2019.

The first contract on RD-180s was concluded in 1997 and stipulated the delivery of 101 engines. The deal was estimated at about $1 billion. The US also obtained a license for the production of RD-180 engines and their analogues but has failed so far to arrange their production (the license agreement expires in 2030). In 2014, the US Congress imposed a ban on the use of RD-180 engines amid a deterioration of relations with Russia but lifted it in 2015. In 2016, the US placed an order with Energomash for an additional 18 RD-180 engines.

The contract for the delivery of RD-181s (20 engines) was signed in 2014 and stipulated two options, each for 20 engines. The deal was estimated at around $1 billion.

Tests prove Russian rocket engines’ multiple-use capacity

The firing tests of Russia’s RD-181 engines held before the launch of an Antares carrier rocket on May 21 this year proved the possibility to use them multiple times, Energomash Chief Designer Lyovochkin said in early June.

The tests of the carrier rocket’s first stage, which involved checking the joint operation of all the systems and the engine, lasted 30 seconds and took place at the launch site of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (Virginia, USA). After the tests, the parameters of the operation of all the rocket’s systems, including the engines, were tested and the condition of the hardware was diagnosed.

"We carried out this work as part of our contractual obligations with Orbital ATK. So, thanks to our foreign partners and the Antares carrier rocket, the entire world has been able to become clearly convinced in the possibility of the multiple uses of our engines. Although we have the experience of creating reusable engines (The RD-170 was certified for the 10-time use), today this was demonstrated for the first time as part of a carrier rocket," Lyovochkin said.

The RD-181 engine has been developed and certified for the Antares carrier rocket. This is a single-chamber liquid-propellant rocket engine with the afterburning of the oxidizing generator gas. The engine uses kerosene as fuel and liquid oxygen as the oxidizer. In 2014, the engine’s design documentation was issued and already in May 2015 its certification was successfully completed.

In the summer of 2015, the first commercial RD-181 engines were delivered to the United States and on October 18, 2016 an Antares-230 carrier rocket with RD-181 engines developed and produced by Energomash and mounted on the rocket’s first stage successfully blasted off from the spaceport on Wallops Island. By now, three successful launches of Antares rockets with RD-181 engines have been carried out.