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Sun, Mar 06, 2022

Russia to Suspend RD-181 Support

Rocket Engines Vital to Antares Medium Rocket Support Discontinued

Russia halted its rocket supply to the US, and, despite many believing that production stateside is both plentiful and capable enough to mitigate the problem, a suitable replacement for the RD-181 engines supplied by the country is not yet ready for launch. 

Russia has decided to rescind any technical support from the RD-181 it sells to the US, a problem for the strategic space launch schedule, since the engine is the only one in use for the Orbital ATK Antares rocket. With a payload of 18,000 pounds, the system performs a number of national security missions, slotting into the United States space ecosystem as a medium rocket. So far, replacement engines have been floated for the project - but nothing is ready to go in a short enough time frame. United Launch Alliance personnel say that the current stock of engines and parts should be sufficient to operate the current slate of missions even should the worst-case sanctions be implemented. 

The break between the two programs highlights the tensions in what has until now been a fairly consistent, high-minded partnership. Despite geopolitical drama below, a tradition of leaving it all down below has been the status quo. NASA has been careful to maintain a cordially tight-lipped stance surrounding all joint efforts between the two, but Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin has continued to let fly and criticize the Biden cabinet's direction as they pursue sanctions. His most recent comments pointedly drew attention to the fact that Russian assistance is integral to keeping the ISS capable of maneuvering and dodging obstacles in orbit, being the only provider of the equipment needed to carry the heavy gear. 

“In a situation like this, we can’t supply the United States with our world’s best rocket engines,” said Rogozin in an interview with RT. “Let them fly on something else, their broomsticks, I don’t know what.” 

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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