That RD-180 rocket 🚀 engine is made by…Russia 🇷🇺
In 2014, then-Russian Deputy PM Rogozin threatened to cut off supply of RD-180s to US as Russia, US tussled over Ukraine.
“Wait! What?” was the reaction of Congress. “We depend on Russia for national security rocket launches?”
2. Fearing Russia will ban US from using its RD-180 rocket engines 🚀 for military applications, US Airforce began evaluating alternatives for powering Atlas V with non-RD-180 engines; early estimates are that alternatives would require 5 or more years.
3. Enter Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin space company to the rescue. In September 2014, US announced that in partnership with Blue Origin, new US-made rocket engines (BE-4/liquid methane) would be developed to replace the Russian RD-180 currently used for Atlas V launches.
4. Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine (which will be built in Alabama, where Bezos has invested nearly $200 million and created 300 high-tech space jobs) uses liquid methane rather than the more commonly used rocket fuels such as kerosene.
5. SpaceX and Blue Origin nextgen rocket engines use methane, which burns clean, is more stable in space, and can be packed in smaller, lighter tanks. Use of methane for space exploration may be a factor in recent US decision to scale back regulations.
6. Reducing regulations on methane may not make environmentalists happy but it should be recalled that regulations on thorium ultimately helped kill “rare earth” metals industry in US, handing China the “upper hand” - US now imports these for military use.
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