SIA Challenges Proposed U.S. Ban on Russian Engines

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A U.S. satellite industry trade group is opposing a congressionally proposed ban on U.S. military use of Russian engine technology on the grounds that it could have negative repercussions on several areas of satellite-related commerce. 

“A ban imposed by legislation would, we believe, have serious negative impacts — both direct and indirect — on the space industry,” Patricia Cooper, president of the Satellite Industry Association (SIA), wrote in a May 20 letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee. “While the current legislative proposal may be focused on one narrow technology, the RD-180 engine, we have little confidence that such policies would not expand eventually to capture any number of other Russian technologies, whether through Congressional expansion or Russian retaliatory actions.”

Cooper said the space industry regularly relies on Russian hardware including rockets, rocket engines and satellite in-orbit propulsion systems. 

In its version of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate Armed Services Committee barred the use of Russian rocket engines at the end of the Air Force’s current block buy contract with United Launch Alliance, whose Atlas 5 rocket is powered by the RD-180.  

In the letter, Cooper also questioned Congress’ push to develop a new liquid-fueled rocket engine in the United States. 

The “engine is already the subject of an ongoing study within the Department of Defense, an inquiry which should be allowed to come to its own determination,” she said.

The SIA sent a similar letter to House leaders in April.