In a move that has been a long time coming, the US Air Force will finally cease using Russian made rockets for their satellite launch missions. The US Air Force conducts most if not all of its space launches through a Boeing-Lockheed joint venture known as the United Launch Alliance (ULA), and all ULA rockets are currently powered by Russian-made RD-180 engines. Although the engines themselves function just fine, the Department of Defense is skeptical about relying upon Russia for anything defense related let alone for all space launches.
The DOD is absolutely committed to transitioning off the RD-180. There should be no doubt.said Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, the commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.
Members of Congress have even proposed that annual RD-180 purchases be capped until all rockets are produced domestically. This may seem like a quick way to force the ULA to use domestic produced rockets, but switching out all ULA rocket systems is rather complex and time consuming. If Congress does implement their proposal, then Air Force will have severely limited access to space until an adequate replacement engine is produced. That being said, a number of domestic companies such as Space X, Rockeydyne and Blue Origin have already begun working on replacement rocket systems. By the early 2020s, The Air Force believes that they will be able to pit domestic rocket producers against one another in order to promote an environment of sustained innovation and competition.
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