Intelligence Bill Authorizes New Satellite Projects

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WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers passed an intelligence bill for fiscal year 2015 that authorizes new satellite projects and reiterates the nation’s need to wean itself from the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine. The bill, which authorizes funding for intelligence programs, passed the House Dec. 10 and at press time Dec. 12 was awaiting the president’s signature. The bill passed the Senate by a voice vote Dec. 9.

A Dec. 10 press release from the House Intelligence Committee summarizing the bill emphasized the importance of space programs to the intelligence community and of reducing reliance on the RD-180 to carry intelligence satellites into space. The RD-180 is the main engine for United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, which is used to launch U.S. national security and scientific satellites.

The final version of the Defense Authorization Act effectively bars future use of the RD-180, which became mired in controversy following the deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations.

According to the press release, the intelligence bill includes funding to “pursue new intelligence capabilities from space” along with “Enhanced investments to more efficiently task and operate intelligence collection assets.”