The Pentagon will remain dependent on Russian rocket engines to launch military satellites into space through at least the mid-2020s, despite the U.S. government allocating billions of dollars to defense contractors to produce an American-made replacement.
The projection adds several years to initial targets laid out in 2014 by lawmakers and senior Air Force officials, who ordered the United States begin phasing out Russia’s RD-180 engines amid national security concerns spurred by the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea.
Senior Air Force and Pentagon officials initially predicted the United States would switch to all-domestic rocket engines as early as 2020, but industry officials now say the military won’t move fully to American-built engines until at least 2024, with some estimating reliance on Russian-made parts through 2028, the Wall Street Journal reported.
At issue is United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin that is contracted by the military to launch top-secret satellites into orbit. Though ULA is in the process of developing a new engine that uses only American parts, it still relies entirely on Russian RD-180 engines to launch its Atlas V rocket.