A significant portion of the American space program depends on Russia. Most of us know that with the absence of an American launch vehicle, American astronauts to the ISS currently hitch rides with their Russian counterparts. What may not be as widely known is that Russia is actually an exporter of rocket engines for a widely-used American launch vehicle.
The Atlas-V is an expendable launch vehicle, capable of being flown in many configurations, for the delivery of payloads to both Low Earth Orbit and Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit. The first stage is powered by a Russian RD 180 engine, capable of producing 930,000 foot-pounds of thrust in a vacuum. This is a little more than half the power generated by each of the five F-1 engines used in the booster stage of the Saturn V moon rocket. The Atlas V can be flown with strap on solid rocket boosters for heavier payloads. It is also slated to be used for a resumption of manned launches from Florida in the near future, though the timelines for this keep changing due to the dynamic nature of the space program.
The RD-180 engine is a major part of America’s stockpile of launch engines, and the Atlas vehicle has seen no fewer than 55 launches as of the end of 2017, with no fewer than 14 slated for 2018-2019.
So with that kind of importance, it was significant that The Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev noted that Russia will continue to deliver these engines to the United States.
We are taking the high road in our relations with foreign countries and implement the previously agreed decisions. I don’t think the deliveries of those engines need to stop. I think we will continue them.
TASS reported further that Russian Deputy Prime Ministry Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of the space and defense industries of that country, said that Russia is highly likely to continue supplies of the RD-180 engines through at least 2020.
This was in response to the Friday, January 26th announcement that the US Dept of the Treasury had widened its blacklist of individuals and companies subject to sanctions over the Ukraine situation. The USA alleges that Russia has active military personnel operating in Ukraine as an attempt to control the former Soviet republic, a charge the Russian Federation has repeatedly and consistently denied.