Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced today that Russia will ban the use of RD-180 engines for use in launching U.S. military satellites. Presumably, this means the country will stop exporting the engines for use aboard ULA’s Atlas V launch vehicles.
Rogozin also announced that Russia would end participation in the International Space Station in 2020, thus rejecting a NASA proposal to continue operations until at least 2024. He also said Russia would disable all 11 GPS stations in Russia as of June 1.
ULA has about 2 to 2.5 years of RD-180 engines left in its inventory. The end of exports would require the military and NASA to shift payloads to other launch vehicles, including ULA’s larger and more costly Delta IV.
The U.S. Air Force would also most likely have to reopen the 36 core buy of ULA launch vehicles to competition. SpaceX has filed a lawsuit demanding just such a move, calling the contract illegal.
A permanent ban on RD-180 exports would scramble NASA’s commercial crew competition. Two of the three competitors, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation, would launch their spacecraft aboard Atlas V rockets. The other competitor is SpaceX, which has its own Falcon 9 rocket that is produced domestically.