“In a situation like this, we cannot supply the United States with the best rocket engines in the world,” Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, told Russian state television. according to Reuters. “Let them fly on something else, their brooms, I don’t know what.
Russia’s decision to withdraw technical support would likely not affect future launches. ULA CEO Tory Bruno said the company has been using its Atlas V rocket engines for years and has enough in-house expertise to handle any issues that may arise with its engine supply. In a statement, ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye said the company has “agreements for technical support and spare parts, but if that support is not available, we will still be able to to safely and successfully pilot our Atlas program”.
These BE-4 engines have been delayed, but Bruno said he expects to receive them this year and be able to start flying Vulcan.
Northrop Grumman and NASA officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on how the lack of RD-181 engines would affect future Antares launches to the space station.
Joe Laurienti, CEO of Ursa Major, a US propulsion systems maker, said the industry “has long known that our reliance on Russian rocket engines was both a vulnerability and a brake on innovation. But this situation underscores that despite reassurances from major defense contractors, the United States still has a long way to go to develop the robust and flexible industrial base needed to remain the leader in space.
Rogozin on Wednesday too threatened the partnership which has supported the space station for more than 20 years. Speaking on Russia Today, a state-controlled English-language station, he said through an interpreter that Russia “will closely monitor the actions of our American partners and if they continue to be hostile, we will return to the question of the existence of the International Space Station”.
This followed tweets last week asking if the United States wanted to ruin cooperation in operating the station. Rogozin reminded President Biden that Russia is responsible for firing the thrusters that keep the station in the correct orbit and said that without Russiathe station could break down.
He reiterated this point during his appearance on Russia Today, saying that the United States “would like to maintain cooperation with Russia on the International Space Station despite the numerous sanctions”.
“Why?” He asked. “Because it’s impossible to run the space station without us. We are responsible for its navigation and fuel delivery.
NASA has sought to avoid any discussion of the end of its partnership with Russia. Earlier this week, Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for space operations, said the two space agencies “always talk together.” We continue to train together. We always work together. Obviously, we understand the global situation and where it is, but as a joint team, these teams work together.
She added: “Obviously we have to continue to monitor the situation. … We have operated in these kinds of situations before and both sides have always acted very professionally and understand the importance of this fantastic mission and the continuation of peaceful relations between the two countries in space.
Later this month, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is expected to return from the space station with a pair of Russian cosmonauts on a Russian spacecraft. Asked about the flight, Lueders said NASA still expects Russia to get Vande Hei home safely and no changes have been made.
Also on Thursday, OneWeb, which makes satellites designed to provide internet connectivity, announced that it was suspend all launches from the Baikonur cosmodrome, where Russia launches its Soyuz rocket. The company was due to launch its next batch of satellites from there on Friday.
Rogozin said Russia would only allow the launch if the British government divested its stake in the company and the satellites would not be used for military purposes.