Russian built RD-180 engines. Credit: United Launch Alliance

Russian built RD-180 engines.
Credit: United Launch Alliance

The RD-180 Rocket Engine Issue Guide has been authored by Travis Cottom, the Marshall Institute’s Program Associate for Defense and Space Policy.

This paper examines the politically and technologically complex options available to the United States in providing dependable rocket engines for space launch.

“The RD-­-180 has been a stalwart engine for the Atlas V rocket, but it may become unavailable at any time due to the continuing deterioration of U.S.-­Russian relations,” explains Cottom.

Difficult position

“To ensure U.S. access to space, another launch vehicle and engine is needed. There are a few engine options available, but they will require several years to develop, test, and certify,” Cottom adds.

In Cottom’s view, rtiring the Delta IV put the U.S. in a difficult situation, “since it forces U.S. policymakers to choose between extending the use of the RD-­-180 or relying only on SpaceX for national security launches for an unknown period of time.”

This Issue Guide reviews the history of the Russian engine in U.S. launch vehicles, examines how use of the RD-180 engine became problematic, and considers the potential results of a ban of the RD-180 engine.

For the paper, go to:


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