Facepalm: Russia continues to get pounded by global sanctions. From tech companies to social media, companies worldwide are putting the squeeze on over the countries invasion of Ukraine. In an attempt to bit back at the US, Russia has announced it will no longer sell us rocket engines. However, the threat is all bark and no bite since the US has a stockpile that will last for the next three years, at which point it will transition to American-made engines.
In response to US sanctions against Russia, its state space agency, Roscosmos, said it will no longer supply the United States with rocket engines. Reuters notes that Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the agency, made the somewhat humorous announcement on state-sponsored outlet Russia 24 TV.
“In a situation like this, we can’t supply the United States with our world’s best rocket engines. Let them fly on something else, their broomsticks, I don’t know what,” said Rogozin.
Rogozin’s choice of words was not the only funny thing about the sanction. The US doesn’t even need any more Russian engines. Although it was in talks to purchase 12 more between 2022 and 2024, the US already has a surplus that will get it through 2025.
The engines in question are the RD-180 used in Atlas V rockets to send payloads to the International Space Station. NASA has used these engines for decades, but in recent years the US space agency has been making a transition to the Vulcan rocket powered by BE-4 engines made by Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin. So Russia’s tit-for-tat sanction lacks any teeth.
Testing of the BE-4 engine began in 2017. United Launch Alliance (ULA), which supplies NASA, is already poised to provide the BE-4s for practical missions very soon.
“The first flight BE-4s are in the Blue factory now, doing well,” ULA CEO Tory Bruno told The Verge. “We have personnel imbedded to help and monitor.”
The Russian threat comes after the ULA had already scheduled a Vulcan launch for later this year. The payload will be Astrobiotic’s “Peregrine” lunar lander.
Of course, having one BE-4 ready by the end of the year does nothing for the rest of ULA’s contracts. However, Bruno says that ULA already secured about two dozen RD-180 engines from Russia. They are sitting in one of its facilities in Alabama. That procurement alone covers all of ULS’s Atlus missions contracted through 2025.
Image credit: N2e (CC BY-SA 4.0)