Home » Space » U.S. May Seek License for Russian Rocket Engines

U.S. May Seek License for Russian Rocket Engines

by Brendan McGarry on March 12, 2014

Atlas V AV-026 OTV-2; LO2 tanking prior to launch

Even as President Barack Obama debates how to punish Russia for sending troops into Ukraine, the U.S. government is reviewing how it might obtain a license for domestic production of Russia’s RD-180 rocket engine, an official said.

The U.S. relies on the engines to launch military and spy satellites into space. United Launch Alliance LLC, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., is the sole provider of medium– and heavy-lift rockets under a program called Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, or EELV. It uses the RD-180 as the main engine on its Atlas V boosters.

While the U.S. has enough of the engines to support launches for the next few years, officials are concerned that future supply could be in jeopardy because of rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the deployment of Russian troops and equipment into Crimea amid political and social unrest in southern Ukraine.

“The partnership we’ve had with Russia [for] that engine has been very important, I think, to both of us, but there are number of concerns the Air Force has and others have anytime we’re relying on such an important piece of equipment from vendors outside of the United States,” Air Force Undersecretary Eric Fanning said during a breakfast with reporters on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

“It’s been a solid partnership for years now,” he added. “We have enough of those engines to support launches well into 2016 but are monitoring closely any suggestions that are taking place in the current bilateral situation that might impact our supply.”

While Russia hasn’t yet publicly threatened to cut off the supply of the RD-180 engines to the U.S., the scenario is one raised frequently by observers who advocate for more competition and suppliers in the military launch program.

“The Atlas V cannot assure access to space when it relies on President Putin’s permission to enter space,” Elon Musk, chief executive officer of start-up rocket-maker Space Exploration Technologies Corp., said during a hearing last week of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

The company, known as SpaceX, is seeking certification from the Air Force to be able to compete launches in the EELV program. The service has delayed a solicitation for bids from companies to fly a future mission so SpaceX can have more time to become certified, Fanning said.

Also at issue is the expensive cost of launch. EELV is projected to cost $70 billion through 2030, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

On the RD-180, Fanning acknowledged the Air Force “would like to have a more varied supply to such a critical part of our launch — the engine. We’re exploring what that is and how much that would actually cost us, even if we had the license to start up a line to produce that engine in the United States.”

There’s a “business case analysis that’s being done on that right now,” he said.

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{ 111 comments… read them below or add one }

andy March 12, 2014 at 11:25 am

America… you are dumb sob…

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andy March 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm

This is how you created jobs in America…..buy russian helicopter with BILLIONS nad now Russian Rockets…..

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andy March 12, 2014 at 11:26 am

Nasa and other defense companies are a joke….

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rtsy March 12, 2014 at 6:29 pm

NASA is not a defense contractor

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DBM March 13, 2014 at 11:27 am

I can't help but wonder if our ICBMs and missile interceptors have russian made engines on them.

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WulfTheSaxon March 13, 2014 at 3:06 pm

The only US rockets that use Russian engines are Atlas V and Antares.

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andy March 12, 2014 at 11:38 am

yessss buy American…nothing are made here…

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ESA March 13, 2014 at 6:29 pm

I can't imagine why. It not as if our nation's education system can't produce citizens capable of basic spelling and punctuation, let alone building staged-combustion liquid fueled rocket engines.

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anonymous March 12, 2014 at 11:41 am

Would of been nice to still have space shuttles, but NASA did not get enough funding.

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Dfens March 12, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Yeah, the shuttle was great. It had us trapped in low earth orbit for 30 years. It was supposed to lift 120,000 lbs to low earth orbit, but could only actually lift 1/3rd of that. It was supposed to be able to be relaunched on a monthly basis, but in reality it took over a year of rework to get one launched. It was supposed to have 5 – 9's of reliability, but in reality it could only achieve one 9. The space shuttle single handed destroyed our manned space exploration program. Why be nostalgic for a propaganda headline?

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LPF March 12, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Oh horse shit, without the space shuttle the ISS would not exist, yes because of pork barrel politics it was designed to get as much support as possible by spreading it out too as many states as possible , but it was still a fantastic leap, and if they could leave the politics out of it, and rationalize the supply chain it could have been operated for a damn sight less.

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Dfens March 12, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Oh, well, what the hell would we do without the "international" space station? After all we get one scientific breakthrough after another from that hunk of junk. Plus it is a great stepping stone to the cosmos, except without a rocket to get there we don't have a rocket that gets us anywhere else either. One more great NASA program in search of a mission.

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tmb2 March 12, 2014 at 5:23 pm

The shuttle was mentioned in one of my college classes about politics and technology. It was advertised to do those things, but only if we spent heavy up front on the airframe. Instead we went cheap building it and O&M costs skyrocketed on the back end.

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Dfens March 12, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Unfortunately what you learned in your class was influenced by decades of propaganda by both NASA and its contractors. The fact is our manned space exploration program was supposed to be furthered, not crushed by the shuttle. Because of that, there were some key elements to the program that were considered non-negotiable. The first of those was the 120,000 lbs to LEO capability. Even without that, manned exploration was still possible if the shuttle could lift 40,000 lbs to LEO reliably and with a quick turn around. The shuttle was the perfect storm. It could do none of those. We finally got the space station that was supposed to be the stepping stone to exploration of the solar system, but then Clinton negotiated a 52 degree inclination orbit for it to make the Russians happy as our "international" partners. That makes it much less effective as an orbital mission assembly point. Not that any of that is relevant anyway since we don't have an launch vehicle that can take 10 lbs to LEO now.

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William_C1 March 12, 2014 at 11:22 pm

Propaganda? The shuttle never lived up to its promise but there must be reasons why it didn't. I'm not all that familiar with the detailed history of the program but there was a time when the concept held a lot of promise and optimism surround it.

Maybe some of technological challenges were too much, maybe some corners were cut and bad design decisions made, maybe politics damaged aspects of the program, maybe all of that is true. But I doubt there were many who wanted our space program to end up in this lackluster state where it is today.

BTW where did you read about 120,000 lbs payload? I thought the goals were a bit more moderate than that. I think it was understood that it wouldn't be able to lift as much as the huge Saturn V but that was an acceptable compromise as it was supposed to be a low cost "space truck".

John Deere March 13, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Bush ended the shuttle program in order to fund Orion. He was going to de-orbit the ISS, too. Did you know the USAF still has a shuttle program, independent of NASA?

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WulfTheSaxon March 13, 2014 at 8:37 pm

So tired of hearing this. Bush never planned for the ISS to be canceled…

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Rest March 18, 2014 at 2:22 am

Bush didn't have the brain to plan anything more complex than his vacations, if even that.

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Dfens April 11, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Deere is right. Bush wanted a big phallic monument to his presidency but he didn't fund it, he didn't get the public or the space community on board. He shut down the shuttle program, started the ill conceived Aries program and sped out of town.

@ScienceAdvisor_ March 14, 2014 at 3:05 pm

The Space Shuttle was the biggest turd ever developed next to the ISS, which was designed to be built by the space truck that was supposed to launch 40 times per year (every 9 days!), as it was sold to Congress. Shylab was launched on a single rocket.

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Dfens March 17, 2014 at 10:12 am

Shuttle showed clearly that if you wanted to launch frequently it should be the first stage that is reusable, not the final stage. The first stage works for 200 seconds and never gets outside of the earth's atmosphere. In fact, air breathing first stage vehicles such as Boeing's Mach 3 first stage vehicle are among the best ideas for reusable space launch vehicles. It climbs, gets up to Mach 3 drops its payload, lands and gets refueled. No tiles to screw with or easily broken carbon-carbon composites. The upper stage should be the expendable portion, not the first stage. Hell, von Braun himself made that clear.

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Bernard March 12, 2014 at 11:41 am

“The Atlas V cannot assure access to space when it relies on President Putin’s permission to enter space,” Elon Musk

^ We need to listen to this guy.

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Kurt March 13, 2014 at 4:56 am

Doesn't matter if Uncle Sugar doesn't listen to him. He's gonna do it his way: http://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musks-falcon-

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Dfens March 12, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Back when NASA designed our rockets, we had the F1 engine on the Saturn V that could take 120,000 lbs to low earth orbit. Each one generated a million and a half pounds of thrust. Today we have to rent rides on ex-Soviet Union designed rockets to get an astronaut's sorry ass off the ground, and we don't have anyone outside of SpaceX that knows how to design a rocket engine in any size class.

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WulfTheSaxon March 13, 2014 at 1:52 am

Eh, I think Aerojet Rocketdyne knows how to design engines… It’s just that they’re too conservative, and would rather wait around hoping that somebody will fund a new engine development program than self-fund like SpaceX does.

Then there are XCOR and Blue Origin to think of.

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Mat March 13, 2014 at 8:13 am

They were no were on near the level the RD-130 -180 ,these engines are like you straped a supercharger on your typical nasa engine decades ahead .

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LPF March 12, 2014 at 12:56 pm

I'm sorry , but is there something stopping the US from designing their own new rocket?

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Dfens March 12, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Yeah, billions and billions of US taxpayer's dollars.

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Yellow Devil March 12, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Because we have to keep reinventing the rocket wheel each time. Oh and NASA got sidetrack by the newest shiny object, global warming, instead of you know the actual mission.

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Chuy March 12, 2014 at 5:28 pm

And for the focus on global warming, we can thank the self proclaimed inventor of the Internet, Al Gore, who, as Vice President to Slick Willy ( I Did Not Inhale/Have Sex with that woman) Clinton bought into the "man made climate change" BS being pushed by the Liberals and all other haters of a strong US economy and US oil companies. Gore stands to make billions from carbon tax and cap-and-trade environmentalist " save the whales " BS but none of that comes out in the Liberal controlled media. And an" inconvenient truth " for Gore is that his 4000 square foot home in Tennessee has a huge carbon footprint. Yet he expects everyone else to drive smart cars and Priuses. Typical Liberal hypocrite !!!

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mule March 12, 2014 at 1:44 pm

In a word: Congress. They have taken over rocket design. The SLS heavy lift rocket which is currently being developed ensured that all the old shuttle districts could keep working. The only really exciting rocket design going on right now is at SpaceX.

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Dfens March 12, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Congress is better at it than that idiot Mike Griffin, the ex-NASA administrator. His pogo stick rocket was going to be ready about the time the space station's useful life (if it could be said to have such a thing) was over. Then they were going to start on the heavy lift vehicle, after we'd paid the Russians for rides and built a rocket to nowhere.

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tiger March 13, 2014 at 5:34 am

US kids want to be Johnny Football; not Rocket scientists. They take classes in beer pong & major in crap like art history to show up 3 times a week.

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Dfens March 13, 2014 at 9:00 am

Hell, when I was a kid most of my heroes were engineers and scientists. Werner von Braun, Kelly Johnson, Mark Donohue, Albert Einstein. Hell, kids these days are lucky to know those names from a history book. The only important people these days are CEO's and entertainers. I can tell you from experience that engineers are nothing but cogs in a machine today. You pull one out and put another in the empty hole and the machine keeps on turning. I had a manager who told me that to my face one day. Said he would have me replaced by a kid out of college the next day after I left. He replaced me, alright, and in an industry that values incompetence over innovation, I'm sure they're all quite happy together right now.

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Mat March 13, 2014 at 8:19 am

Lack of know how. You would need decades and bilions to gain know how needed .

Russian and US rocket scientists chose to develop 2 different concepts 5 decades ago , the RD series are outside US know how as Nasa dropped the concept as to risky 50 years ago but concept so far outpreforms anything out there that it would be stupid to use that tech.

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@ScienceAdvisor_ March 14, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Space-X seems to be getting a good handle on it in shorter time and for less money.

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frank March 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Obama will do what Putin tells him too. At least he has since he entered office.

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Lance March 12, 2014 at 1:43 pm

This is sad, Obama almost wants to to start WW3 over this dumb Ukraine situation and wants to cripple Russia with sanctions. NOW he wants to be nice and kiss up to them for rocket motors that we shouldn't need. The US should have our own rockets no we have to outsource to EU and Russia? That's just sad.

I guess they where right to talk of NASA as in old memory in Star Trek they saw the future, LOL.

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Barney Fife March 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Uh Lance, Obama isn't going to start WWIII….he is going to run his mouth, play uphype for all the world to watch, and cave as usual.
And for the rest…its pathetic how big business has run our country into the ground, shipped factories and technology over seas, and stripped the industrial base to such a point we now rely on other countries for our defense needs.

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Steven March 12, 2014 at 1:48 pm

It is time that our critical needs (rockets, satellites, military planes, etc.) have parts MADE IN AMERICA ONLY. If we were cut off from China and Russia, I doubt if we could build our military aircraft, military satellites and launch vehicles with the single exception of SpaceX.

Why do we put ourselves in a bind by relying on Dictatorships, Oligarchies and generally those who are not solid allies. Oh, and by they way, Obama has alienated our closest allies because they don't believe we can be trusted to follow through on any commitment we make, for example "The Syrian Red Line", halting Iran's nuclear program (Obama will "settle" for a weak and ineffective agreement to get "Peace in Our Time – shades of Neville Chamberlain).

NASA needs REAL MANNED MISSIONS REAL SOON (not 5 years-10 years away) to destinations beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) that will actually prepare us for exploring, mining and colonizing the Moon, Asteroids and later Mars. If NASA had a sustained presence on the moon, I am sure commercial interests would soon follow. If NASA would thoroughly explore the moon and nearby asteroids (with BOTH men and probes), commercial interests are eager to follow very quickly to cash in on mining and manufacturing opportunities where abundant energy and abundant raw materials exist.

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barney fife March 12, 2014 at 2:08 pm

I would have to agree with you, but for one thing…..the reason we put our selfsinto a bind for defense and technology needs is because of our reliance on big business to run the show. In order to cut production,raise costs and maximize profits, they stage phony enviromental stage shows up in Washington (comes in handy when a deal for raw earth materials comes in from China far cheaper than what we could dig them up for in Wyoming or else where), create disasters by destroying our industrial base, and stage other phony shows by buying politicians to help further their cause.

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Hunter76 March 12, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Steven,

I am glad to see in your 3rd para that you are a proponent of wealth through government spending.

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Dfens March 13, 2014 at 9:04 am

You're pretty self-righteous for a person living in a country put on the map by a guy whose funding came from Queen Isabella of Spain.

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blight_ March 14, 2014 at 10:55 am

Without Columbus we'd still be dependent on the Abbasids to get spices from Indonesia and silk from China.

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rtsy March 12, 2014 at 6:38 pm

This "made in America" bull has got to end. The next big push into space is going to be a global one and insisting that each nation builds only its own equipment would be a disaster. It'll take a few million tons of equipment launched into orbit to create the much vaunted space based economy. No one nation will be able to afford the R&D, construction, launch, and training costs that would be needed to access all of that abundant energy and raw materials.

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Dfens March 13, 2014 at 9:05 am

Spoken like an international metrosexual.

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rtsy March 14, 2014 at 1:12 am

Spoken like a xenophobic hick.

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tiger March 13, 2014 at 5:43 am

Well give up that refund check then…………….

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Rich March 12, 2014 at 2:05 pm

I'm just curious why we can't use any of the rocket designs that were developed over that last 50 years.

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Dfens March 12, 2014 at 3:30 pm

That's the thing, they can, and I thought they were: http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/04/how-nasa-b

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Dfens March 12, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Here's another interesting article about resurrecting the F-1: http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/04/new-f-1b-r

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WulfTheSaxon March 13, 2014 at 1:59 am

Largely because they keep canceling engine programs before they get a chance to prove themselves… At least they seem to have learned from past mistakes, as the J-2X program is being wrapped up nicely before being set aside in case they need it later.

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Dfens March 13, 2014 at 9:07 am

The engine for the 2nd stage of the pogo stick. How long do you think that will remain a viable design sitting on the shelf? You've got to build rockets to need engines.

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WulfTheSaxon March 13, 2014 at 3:42 pm

As bad as Ares I was, and as misguided as the J-2X program was, you can’t deny that it’s better to finish programs you start rather than spending billions on half-finished engine after half-finished engine. At least finish the test program and stick the design on a shelf, like the F-1A. The J-2X would make a great upper stage engine for the single-stick version of Dynetics’ F-1B–powered Pyrios boosters.

And imagine if the RS-84 had been finished…

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Dfens March 14, 2014 at 12:40 am

Yes, you're definitely right about that. LOx – H2 2nd stages make a lot of sense in general. What didn't make sense was the LOx – H2 first stage on the shuttle. The SSME, now there's an engine that needed to die along with the rest of that damn shuttle.

Thomas B. March 12, 2014 at 5:27 pm

This is one of the bigger BS I have read recently.

the RD-180 is used on the EELV only. EELV was created with price tag in mind hence the cheaper produced Russian engines – providing not less quality though.

Beside of that the US is able to produce every type of engine domestically if needed.

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Big-Dean March 12, 2014 at 5:44 pm

"stupid is as stupid does" a very bright man once said

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mpower6428 March 12, 2014 at 5:45 pm

The whole damn concept doesn't pass the smell test….. something else is going on here as per usual.

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Dfens March 12, 2014 at 5:48 pm

I wonder what ever happened to this bill introduced in the Senate last November? I'm sure Lockheed and Boeing are doing everything possible to kill it.

The U.S. Defense Department would be required to examine the feasibility of swapping the Russian-made engine that powers the first stage of one of its workhorse rockets for a U.S. alternative under recently introduced legislation in the Senate. — http://www.spacenews.com/article/launch-report/38

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Dfens March 13, 2014 at 9:20 am

That F-1B they talk about in the second article I provided the link to above (http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/04/new-f-1b-rocket-engine-upgrades-apollo-era-deisgn-with-1-8m-lbs-of-thrust/2/) has exactly twice the thrust of the Russian RD-180. It could replace the 2 RD-180s on the Atlas V quite easily. Of course, if the Air Force has Boeing or Lockheed do the study, it will be impossible.

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Stephen Russell March 12, 2014 at 7:15 pm

Give lisc to Space X & speed up CST & SNC Dreamcatcher, shuttle alone for Space Ops.

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Hunter76 March 12, 2014 at 7:27 pm

There's an issue with intellectual property rights here.

All the hubbub here is pitched to high levels by the takeover of Crimea.

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SIXGUNWEST March 12, 2014 at 8:03 pm

These people should have argued about BO killing the Shuttle Program and turning them into museum pieces to show muslims the US brash shuttle program is no more. Sort like leveling the playing on the road to bringing us down to the level of dirt poor sub-Sahara Africa.

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PrahaPartizan March 15, 2014 at 9:39 am

The Shuttle Program was scheduled to end before Obama got elected as President. Spew your bigotry someplace else or choose a different topic to address when complaining about our ELECTED President. At least we know he was elected compared to the previous Pretender squatting in the Oval Office.

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DBM March 15, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Doing a Kool-aide mainline IV drip aren't you. Damned democrats voting early and often and trying to change election laws. You could always tell when Clinton/gore were lying – their lips moved and sound came out.

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PrahaPartizan March 17, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Not doing Kool-aid at all compared to the Republitards who lapped up the spew coming out of Condi, Rummy, Dick and the Dummy for eight years. It's funny how the election laws all need to be changed now after those states improved voting access years ago in order to avoid hard DoJ sanctions for their voters rights violations but now find that actually allowing decent access to voting means conservative politicians get booted by real citizens. Just 'fess up that you'd rather just go back to the slaveocracy of your forebears rather than live in a real democracy. And don't give that spew about "a republic" because it doesn't mean anything in this context. I'd challenge you to define just how a republic differs from a democracy in their normal usage, just in case you can't resist the urge to quote Franklin.

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PrahaPartizan March 12, 2014 at 8:10 pm

Given all of the hub-bub generated over producing another engine for the F-35, one would have imagined that someone would have thought that maybe proceeding with an alternative rocket engine for the main stage of the EELV produced here in the US deserved some traction. Pound-for-pound and cubic-foot-for-cubic-foot the shuttle's engine was the most powerful in the world, so designing an equally effective engine using kerosene/LOx should be eminently doable.

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tiger March 13, 2014 at 5:40 am

It is a narrow market. Fewer firms in Space today than 40 years ago.

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PrahaPartizan March 15, 2014 at 9:37 am

Just how is it a narrower market than it was 40 years ago. Are there fewer militaries interested in launchers than 40 years ago – after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the release of the nations in the Warsaw Pact? Are there fewer private enterprises involved in actual launches than 40 years ago? Yeah, there are fewer vehicle builders as some might understand them, but that was a political decision to allow monopoly power to be established in the business. We have pretty much the same number of commercial airframe builders that we did 40 years ago and every last one can mount at least two different engine designs. How is this any different?

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kage March 12, 2014 at 8:23 pm

What would it cost and how long would it take to reestablish NASA back to where it was before our leaders decided to reduce it to where they are now.
When the shuttle program was shut down and we had no way to retrieve our astronauts our selves I knew that was a major screw up.
But we continue to pump money into other countries
economies. Just amazes me….

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blight_ March 12, 2014 at 10:09 pm

NASA's been in the pits since we won the space race. Nobody cares. Bread and circuses please!

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Dfens March 13, 2014 at 9:13 am

Once they started outsourcing everything to aerospace contractors they went down the toilet. They should have used von Braun as a mentor to a new generation of rocket scientists, but instead they outsourced the shuttle design and have been outsourcing everything ever since. Of course, NASA was the government agency that pioneered the "profit on development" contract. They didn't even use award fees, it was a straight "cost plus fee" contract. When the rest of the defense community saw the pork that Rockwell feasted on with the shuttle, they all wanted a part of that kind of contract.

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Dfens March 13, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Apparently NASA is too busy flying first class to who knows where to waste any money on rockets: http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/u-s-world/na

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Michael Morris March 12, 2014 at 9:41 pm

What would the Russians or Chinese do if they were in our shoes? They would just copy the American engine.

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tiger March 13, 2014 at 5:39 am

That is how they made the Mig -15. They ripped off Rolls Royce.

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Hunter76 March 13, 2014 at 8:43 am

Tiger,

No. The Mig-15 was derived from German design, particularly the Ta-183.

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LChoate2000 March 13, 2014 at 10:41 am

Rolls-Royce provided the Nene jet engine which the Soviets copied (without paying a license fee) for the MiG-15.

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Spacecowboy March 12, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Launch more EELV Delta rockets. 100% US Made top to bottom. ULALaunch.com

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Spacetoy March 12, 2014 at 11:13 pm

Fly more Delta EELV rockets. 100% US made top to bottom

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William_C1 March 12, 2014 at 11:28 pm

I wish Presidents would still promise space program stuff and actually do some of it as opposed to promising free stuff and then screwing everything up.

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Patriot March 12, 2014 at 11:40 pm

As long as the US pays 70% of its income out to those takers who want a check, the economy and its very security will remain at risk.

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PolicyWonk March 13, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Until the congress rescinds the "temporary" tax cuts of 2002, and rescinds the massive increase in corporate welfare programs they started (according to the CBO), this nation will remain financially/economically insolvent.

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WulfTheSaxon March 13, 2014 at 2:07 am

“[…]even if we had the license to start up a line to produce that engine in the United States.”

What is he talking about? They already have a license…

For some more background: http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2014/03/spacex-and… (and the associated forum threads)

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tiger March 13, 2014 at 5:37 am

I guess the "Right Stuff" was wrong? Their Germans are better than our Germans…….

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Dfens March 13, 2014 at 10:01 am

Our Germans got the bums rush out of NASA as soon as the Apollo program was over. Rockwell designed the shuttle and defense contractors have designed NASA's rockets from then on. And look at how well that has gone for us.

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Mat March 13, 2014 at 8:23 am

Before you get all high and mighty ,just look up wilkipedia os something on RD rocket engine family. these things are so superior to anthing else that it hurts ,comparing them to Nasa engine its like comparing a stock V8 to tuned and supercharged V8 . And in space every gram of weight or Booster power counts its weight in gold or platinum

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PrahaPartizan March 15, 2014 at 9:45 am

The Russians decided to continue to develop their kerosene/LOx rocket designs. NASA chose to go in other directions. US liquid hydrogen fueled engines could probably be considered decades ahead of any Russian designs as well. The same likely applies to solid rockets. It all depends on where you focus your efforts. The classic kerosene/LOx rocket engine is going to be hard to beat for launch to low earth orbit once economics dominate the equation.

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Hunter76 March 13, 2014 at 9:16 am

The proportion of hysterical whiners here is incredible.

NASA remains the premier space explorer. NASA's probes dominate Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, the ice giants, near extra-solar space, and the Moon (though big achievements there have been lacking since Apollo). ESA, the strongest competitor, remains far behind. Venus, where the Russians have had some success, is the only area where NASA lags.

The ISS, which is Man in Space for Man in Space sake, has yet to find a real mission. Certainly industry is not clamoring to get on board.

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Maxtrue March 16, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I will say to America bashers that the recent landing on Mars was one of the most amazing technical feats humanity has ever accomplished. That said, the fact that COSMOS won't really re-ignite the 60s and 70s enthusiasm in science because we don't care as much is sad. However, much of that innovation was military-related. As we are learning now, things can get ugly again. In January, China tested a hypersonic re-entry craft.

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John Fourquet March 13, 2014 at 10:51 am

Is our space program that broke that we need Russian rocket engines!!!!!

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Dfens March 14, 2014 at 10:39 am

According to some statistics NASA published a few years back NASA's funding level today is equal to the average funding they got during the Apollo program. The Apollo funding profile had some peak funding levels much higher than NASA's current budget, but then again they also had years with a lot less funding too. Given that rockets are a mature technology now, we should be able to build them for a lot less now than we did in the 1960's. If NASA was more interested in doing their jobs and less interested in funneling money to a select few contractors they could still be doing great things.

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WulfTheSaxon March 14, 2014 at 9:29 pm

lolwut?

Have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_of_NASA

That’s laughable by both inflation-adjusted cost and percent of the federal budget.

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Dfens March 17, 2014 at 6:16 pm

As seen, NASA today is funded at a constant-dollar level slightly higher than the agency’s historical average. – http://aviationweek.typepad.com/space/2007/03/hum

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Dfens March 17, 2014 at 6:25 pm

What is truly laughable is the notion that everything should cost more today than it used to simply because. Even more laughable is the notion that things should cost more now because the federal budget is larger or because the gross national product is larger. It's not a shake down. It is a science program.

Brad Ferguson March 13, 2014 at 11:09 am

If memory serves……………………….The Falcon IV cost is about, 70 million to LEO. Or about what one seat costs bumming a ride off the Russians. The Falcon IV Heavy is only exceeded in it's lift capacity (to any orbit) by the MIGHTY Saturn V. At roughly 150 million per launch vehicle..

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Rockerman III March 13, 2014 at 1:37 pm

My thoughts on Putin " if someone shows you who they are, BELIEVE THEM !

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Peter March 13, 2014 at 5:11 pm

To most of the posters on here. You do realise that all us Europeans used to look up the USA as something to aspire to don't you?

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Dfens March 14, 2014 at 12:50 am

You have no idea how much it sucks to disappoint our fans. If you want to lead the way out of this mess, though, feel free. It would be nice if someone would step up before the Chicoms come over the hill.

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Rest March 18, 2014 at 7:02 pm

That's around the time of WWII. No more. Now is the era of the Banksters.

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hibeam March 13, 2014 at 7:59 pm

NASA's new Mission is to find Muslim Mathematicians and hire them so Muslims can feel better about themselves. How is that new mission going? I have not heard a lot about it since the laughter died down.

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bum291 March 17, 2014 at 9:54 am

The rocket works and it's much cheaper than starting to work on a new design. Russia just snatched Crimea, a snatch of some rocket desígn in return is nothing. I'd support such a move.

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Dfens March 17, 2014 at 10:34 am

It's cheaper to simply buy SpaceX rockets. That's cheaper by a large margin.

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Jim Connors March 17, 2014 at 9:58 am

Stalin had no problem with stealing and copying our B-29. We should return the favor and copy their engine.

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Dfens March 13, 2014 at 10:10 am

When the government spins the total failure of a vehicle into a glowing success story, yes, I define that as "propaganda". And the shuttle also cost more per launch than the Apollo, even though no part of the Apollo rocket was reusable. If you believe that qualifies it as a low cost "space truck" then you are buying into government propaganda.

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blight_ March 14, 2014 at 11:14 am

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_Spa

Going to have to start digging into primary sources from here, but it's interesting reading.

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Dfens March 17, 2014 at 9:58 am

The Wikipedia article you cite tends to be heavy on current day criticisms, but very light on the criticisms of the program back when it was in development and early production. For instance, it was not until the light weight aluminum lithium external tank was produced that they shuttle was even able to get to what was previously considered "low earth orbit". Up until then it orbited at 100 miles above the surface of the earth, an area previously considered to be part of the earth's atmosphere and not "space" at all. Also the cryo-pump that pushed fuel and oxidizer into the combustion chamber of the main engines initially ran at such a high speed that the pump needed to be replaced every mission. It was such a concern that most people who knew about such things thought an uncontained rupture of that compressor disk would certainly be the first cause of a catastrophic event on the shuttle. Much of the post-Challenger money was spent on fixing that pump.

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blight_ March 17, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Thought the other problem was a the air force mission and the desire to have it replace all single-use rockets, which is probably yet another example of one-size-fits-all-fits-none.

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Dfens March 17, 2014 at 5:49 pm

That's true, but they did cover that in the article pretty well. So many bad ideas all wrapped up in one vehicle. It's hard to believe the same country that built the Saturn V could build the shuttle too. But that's what happens when you let some idiot who has never designed a rocket design your next vehicle. No one is accountable. No one is to blame. But nothing works.

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blight_ March 17, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Rockwell designed the Command Module and thought they could design a space plane.

The whole re-use thing turned out to be a failure. I suppose proper cost accounting would have told us that the cost to refurbish almost reached the cost of building new rockets, at which point it is time to walk away.

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Rest March 18, 2014 at 2:27 am

Not almost, but exceeded the cost of building a new one from scratch… afaik

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Dfens April 11, 2014 at 1:21 pm

I don't know what you're talking about. In the '60s and '70s we could go to the moon and could have gone farther if we hadn't stopped production of our first and only heavy launch vehicle. From the 1980s on we have been stuck in low earth orbit and now that shuttle has finally died, we are stuck on the ground. That's the reality.

When it comes to the exploitation of the rest of our solar system, there is no military and non-military. It is a land grab. The two are intertwined just as they were when this country was first being explored.

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