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Russian RD-180 Embargo Could Boost American Rocket Industry 179

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes According to a Saturday story in the Los Angeles Times, the recent revival of tensions between the United States and Russia, not seen since the end of the Cold War, may provide a shot in the arm for the American rocket engine industry. Due in part in retaliation for economic sanctions that were enacted in response to Russian aggression in the Ukraine, Russia announced that it would no longer sell its own RD-180 rocket engines for American military launches. This has had American aerospace experts scrambling to find a replacement. The stakes for weaning American rockets off of dependency on Russian engines could not be starker, according to Space News. If the United States actually loses the RD-180, the Atlas V would be temporarily grounded, as many as 31 missions could be delayed, costing the United States as much as $5 billion. However SpaceX, whose Falcon family of launch vehicles has a made in the USA rocket engine, could benefit tremendously if the U.S. military switches its business from ULA while it refurbishes its own launch vehicles with new American made engines.
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Russian RD-180 Embargo Could Boost American Rocket Industry

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  • thankX (Score:4, Insightful)

    by harvey the nerd ( 582806 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @01:36PM (#47241063)
    SpaceX and the American people thank you, Mr Putin.
    • It is nice to see businesses in america not out sourcing, as much, to those that have nothing vested in the community that the product is made for.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      The US should know better than to rely on that KGB goon for anything, particularly military hardware.

      He'll cut off gas to countries - you think he won't cut off rockets?

      It's simply bad business to rely on a supplier who is going to jerk you around like that, and worse defense policy to rely on an unstable enemy.

    • Not really. The GOP are still working to kill private space esp spaceX. Look at the recent push by Shelby for ghoulish documentation, even though the idea of a service is to simply buy it. Oddly, Putin is thankful that the GOP are pretty much traitors who would rather send .5-2B /year to Putin for the next 6 years, rather than spend .5-1b total getting private space going
  • Corporations — Less pissy than governments, since 1347.

    • What happened in 1347? :p

    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      In the defense sector, corporations are more or less proxies of governments. American corporations won't go against U.S. government policy, of course, but other countries' corporations might. American defense corporations don't defy the American government, Russian ones don't defy the Russian government, Swedish ones don't defy the Swedish government, French ones don't defy the French government, etc.

      • American corporations won't go against U.S. government policy

        US Govt Policy is whatever the companies paying the campaign contributors want it to be.

        Of course they wont go against it. They thought it was a good idea when they came up with it!

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Nah, they're just as pissy, they just have smaller bladders.

    • you're funny, some of those corporations, the banking cartel, have had government in their pockets since about that time

  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @01:50PM (#47241141) Homepage

    "Atlas V would be temporarily grounded, as many as 31 missions could be delayed"

    It sounds like it should save the government money.

    • by mmell ( 832646 )
      No, it's we taxpayers footing the bill. Any deviation from original plans will cost more. It's another opportunity for corporations to participate in the feeding frenzy.

      Pretty lousy, eh chum?

    • by phayes ( 202222 )

      No, it would cost ULA money as their contract states that the launches will be performed on Atlas or Delta but Atlas (with the outsourced russian engines) costs less.

      ULA could launch on Delta (reserving the launches that NEED to be on Atlas for that launcher) but ULA would have to eat the difference. Very unpalatable for ULA that...

      • And if the government got over it's SpaceX fear, it could launch many of them on the Falcon 9 for much less money.

  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @02:02PM (#47241211) Homepage

    That the official operating procedure for the biggest military on Earth, many times over, is to buy mission critical equipment from anywhere that will sell it the cheapest and to not have any redundancy in place to ensure continued supply or alternatives?

    What is the point of even having a military if that military requires good relationships with all other powerful nations on Earth to continue to function.
    I can only imagine the level of damage a Chinese embargo would do.

    • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Sunday June 15, 2014 @02:34PM (#47241345)

      "Running the government like a business" has been a catchphrase used by both major parties for some years now. Outsourcing in order to save money is standard practice in business. Is it surprising that they did exactly that?

      • I need to go to take a nap, I've just misread it as "ruining the government like a business". But then again, perhaps I needn't!
      • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @04:12PM (#47241851)

        "Running the government like a business..."

        Is a distortion of the old principle that the government should be run "more like" a business. But not "like" a business. Some people took that idea, interpreted it kind of sideways, and made the government run like a BAD business.

        "Outsourcing" to your own competitors has never been good business.

        • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @06:26PM (#47242441) Journal

          Actually, out sourcing like this made perfect sense.

          It started at a time which we wanted to calm down a threat. You, lile many others in this thread think this was only about being cheep and saving money. It is or was not. When we started buying from the Russians, it was about funneling money to them in ways that didn't create resentment while dealing with their concerns about continued US military strength after the colapse of the USSR.

          In short, this had more diplomatic reasoning than financial when it was implemented. It served those diplomatic purposes well until recently when the advantage has been turned around. But ignoring the diplomatic aspect originally involved does not explain the situation properly.

      • by Nimey ( 114278 )

        Can you link to a Democrat saying that? I ask because being pro-business is the Republican stereotype.

    • One of the companies who makes the launch system was required to take out a license to produce the boosters themselves. This is the backup plan.

      It's not a great backup plan, because just having the plans and license doesn't mean you necessarily can make them, especially with the reliability needed for defense launches.

    • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @02:46PM (#47241397)
      "What is the point of even having a military if that military requires good relationships with all other powerful nations on Earth to continue to function."

      To redistribute money from common taxpayers to military-industrial complex corporations.

      Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

      This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

      In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

      - Dwight Eisenhower

    • The military doesn't NEED rockets to put up new satellites right at this moment in order to defend the country.

      If Russia cuts us off and then attacks us, the sattelites currently up there would work just fine. The missiles would work. The airplanes and boats would work. The guns would work. It would take, what, several years before the satellites for weather and spying shut down and would need to be replaced.

      It would just be a waste of money given the plans we had based on the rockets. Plans wh
      • Except apparently the loss of those imports are already shutting down programs and canceling missions...

        • It would just be a waste of money given the plans we had based on the rockets. Plans which, again, are not necessary for defense of the country. Actual war would undoubtedly be vastly more expensive too. And realize that the $5 billion lost was an estimate put forward by people who have an interest in the rocket industry: it's advertising.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

        US military does not exist to defend US. It exists to attack foreign entities for US agenda. As a result, it needs a good number of spy and other military satellites in orbit to ensure it's intelligence gathering and other military purposes across the globe are as efficient as possible.

  • Congress (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jeff13 ( 255285 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @02:12PM (#47241251) Homepage

    Wait... does anyone seriously think that Congress will pass funding for anything related to NASA and the space programs? The current, Tea Party locked, science committee that recently called Climate Science "not science at all", Congress???

    Good luck with that.

    Unless it's a back-scratch back-room subsidy for their ilk and/or a state they wanna buy votes outta, forget it. Not ... going... to... happen.

    • You don't give it to NASA. You give it to 'protecting the American way of life'. The contract goes to YoYoDyne^HBoeing. NASA then 'needs' a heavy lift booster that YoYoDyne just happens to have tested recently.....

      With the exception of the Saturn boosters (the 1B and V), every US space launch has been done with a booster that is to a greater or lesser extent, military.

      • I can only assume you're using some convoluted definition of "US space launch" that excludes all the ones that SpaceX has flown, whether for the government or not. Because I can't even imagine how you'd manage to call the Falcon/Dragon stack "military".

    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      The Tea Party loves folks like SpaceX. NASA is all politics and earmarks anyway. (And climate "science" is more politics and earmarks than science right now, but that a different topic).

    • Re:Congress (Score:4, Insightful)

      by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @04:54PM (#47241993)

      does anyone seriously think that Congress will pass funding for anything related to NASA and the space programs

      If it's sold as a matter of national security and economic competitiveness, and especially if it's sold as an uplifted middle finger to the Russians, I can imagine this happening. Rocket launches are used for lots of other things besides climate science, most of which aren't terribly controversial. And right now the US rocket industry couldn't possibly hire a better lobbyist for its cause than Vladimir Putin.

  • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @02:15PM (#47241265)
    I actually had no idea we were buying Russian rockets.
    Oh well, at least they are better than North Korean models.

    So, what is the Arianes launch record and failure determinations?

    I wonder if SpaceX has a design for a heavy lifter yet...
    • by GNious ( 953874 )

      you're not - you're buying the engines.

    • Falcon9Heavy.... []
      Hasn't flown yet, but if it does redundancy and has as many fail-safes as the current Falcon9, I bet it will do well...

      • I believe it's just "Falcon Heavy", since if it was numbered for the same reason the Falcon 9 is, it would be the Falcon 27 (or possibly the Falcon 9 3). But yes. The basic design is, I believe, complete... they're just having some trouble with the propellant cross-feed (where the side fuel tanks are used up first by all 27 rockets, allowing the side boosters and their 18 rockets to be dropped after their tanks are used up, while the central one booster and its 9 rockets still have a full supply). Currentl

    • IIRC, Ariane accounts for 50% of commercial payloads launches. It rarely fails, but the major drawback is that it is not designed to carry peoples.
  • by Krashed ( 264119 ) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @02:31PM (#47241331) Journal

    There is a great documentary on YouTube on the subject of the engines and United Launce Alliance's work on buying them from Russia to be fitted to launch vehicles. The Russians were doing things with their engines which Americans thought impossible until they were demonstrated first-hand. This video has those initial tests towards the end of the file.

    The Engines That Came in From The Cold []

  • No more shuttle so we could save a trivial amount of tax money. We've shipped our manufacturing to China to make more money for CEOs and upper management who can live anywhere and could give a rat's ass about the USA.

    Gee, I wonder where that could all end? Any ideas?

  • I'm a bit surprised that they still use the RD-180 engine, I thought that it had a successor by now. It's after all 70s/80's technology.

    • by Max_W ( 812974 )
      Yes, I agree. It would be nice to have new technologies, like - matter transmitter, teleportation, or at least a wormhole. But these are hard scientific and technological problems. It will take some more years.
      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

        Well - I thought more about an upgraded/updated version with a bit more power, not a giant leap forward! :)

Scientists are people who build the Brooklyn Bridge and then buy it. -- William Buckley