Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Jeff Bezos isn’t the only one who says he can end U.S. reliance on a Russian-made engine
As tensions between Russia and the U.S. have risen over the crisis in the Ukraine, members of Congress urged the Pentagon to develop an alternative to the Russian-made RD-180 engine, which is used to launch defense satellites into space. The United Launch Alliance, the joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin which has a virtual monopoly on those sensitive contracts, announced last week that it would invest in Bezo's Blue Origin space startup to develop a replacement to the RD-180, which is used in ULA's Atlas V rockets. (Bezos bought the Washington Post last year.)
The BE-4, as the Blue Origin engine is known, would be developed in about four years, officials said.
But Kent Romminger, ATK's vice president of business development, said that "we feel very confident we can do this within three years," and at a lower cost.
"We feel we can be very competitive," he said.
In addition to ending reliance on the Russian engine, the U.S. is getting closer to sending its astronauts to space aboard U.S. rockets. Ever since the space shuttle was retired three years ago, the U.S. has relied on the Russians to send its astronauts to the International Space Station. The Russians currently charge more than $70 million a seat aboard its Soyuz space craft.
Last week NASA awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to ferry astronauts to the space station.