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McCain: End Reliance On Russian Rocket Engines

ULA's Atlas V at Cape Canaveral.

U.S. Senator John McCain is urging the military to end reliance on Russian-made rocket engines.

The U.S. Air Force contracts United Launch Alliance, a private space company, to launch its satellites. ULA uses the Russian-made RD-180 engines on Atlas V rockets, which launch from Florida’s Space Coast.

To understand why Arizona Senator John McCain wants the U.S. to stop using the engines, you have to go back to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago. After Russia annexed Crimea, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia – including limiting the number of RD-180 engines the U.S. could purchase for military space launches.

But McCain said the sanctions don’t go far enough. At a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting last week, he expressed concern over the Air Force’s use of ULA and the Russian engine.

The Air Force said it’s working to end reliance on the engine. Last month, the Air Force awarded $80 million to private space companies SpaceX and Orbital ATK to develop new rocket engines that could replace the RD-180.

The next Atlas V launches from Cape Canaveral this week.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »