Russian Engines the RD-180

by nasaaave


NPO Energomash documentary on the RD-170 (in Russian). The RD-170 (РД-170, Ракетный Двигатель-170, Rocket Engine-170) is the world’s most powerful liquid bipropellant rocket engine. It burns kerosene and LOX oxidizer in four combustion chambers supplied by a single turbo pump according to a staged combustion cycle. Designed and produced by NPO Energomash, it was originally use

The excellent story everyone uses.

This is a Channel 4 Equinox Documentary on the history of development of the NK-33 engines that were originally developed for the Soviet N1 moon rocket. The Atlas V RD-180 generation of rocket engines is now applying this ‘closed cycle’ or staged combustion principle in order to achieve much greater efficiency. Contains rare footage and interviews with veterans of the early Soviet Space program: including Vasily Mishin and Boris Chertok.

Time Line

Can we build them in the USA? Yes we can

Initial Results from a Demonstration of U.S. Capability to Manufacture an RD-180 Preburner and Stator

Read More:

Basically talking about how they were working with the Russians to build the pre-burner/stator section of the RD-180 using US produced materials, parts, coatings, and manufacturing processes

ULA docs


Program change

Russian Reset 2008-09

Stockpile RD-180’s in USA

This video is excellent from the Russian side showing shipments from Russia of the RD-180 Rocket Engine for Storage than use as needed.

The write up done with this Utube video is nothing less than excellent.  Give full attribution for this.

The roots of the RD-180 rocket engine extend back into the Soviet Energia launch vehicle project. The RD-170, a four chamber engine, was developed for use on the strap-on boosters for this vehicle, which ultimately was used to loft the Buran orbiter. This engine was scaled to a two chamber version by combining the RD-170’s combustion devices with 1/2 size turbomachinery. After successful performance in engine tests on a test stand, and high-level agreements between the US government and the Russian government, the engines were imported to the US for use on the Lockheed Martin Atlas III, with first flight in 2000. The engine is also used on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V, the successor to the Atlas III.[1]

The engine has no direct connection to the NK-33, which was developed by a different bureau (Kuznetzov) nearly a decade earlier.

2014 Availability Concerns
Doubts about the reliability of the supply chain for the RD-180 arose following the Ukraine crisis in March 2014. For over thirteen years since the engine was first used in the Atlas III launch vehicle in 2000, there was never any serious jeopardy to the engine supply, despite an uneven record of US-Russian relations since the Cold War. But worsening relations between the West and Russia after March have led to several blockages, including a short-lived judicial injunction from the US courts that were unclear on the scope of the US sanctions on importing the Russian engine.

On May 13, 2014, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced that “Russia will ban the United States from using Russian-made rocket engines for military launches”[3]—a frequent payload of the ULA Atlas V launch vehicle which powers its first stage with a single RD-180 engines that is expended after each flight.[4] In response, the US Air Force has asked the Aerospace Corporation to begin evaluating alternatives for powering the Atlas 5 booster stage with non-RD-180 engines. Early estimates are that it would require five or more years to replace the RD-180 on the Atlas V.[5]

Even if the Russian government does not cut off the supply to ULA of imported RD-180 engines, the US Congress, with emerging support from the Air Force, has come around to a view that it would not be advantageous to the US government to start up a US production line to produce the RD-180. However, the US Congress is advocating for the initiation of a new US hydrocarbon rocket engine program, to field a new engine by 2022.[6]

In June 2014, Aerojet Rocketdyne proposed that the US Federal government “fund an all-new, U.S.-sourced rocket propulsion system,” the 2,200-kilonewton-class (500,000 lbf) thrust kerosene/LOX AR-1 rocket engine. as of June 2014 Aerojet’s early projection was that the cost of the each engine would be under US$25 million per pair of engines—not including the up to US$1 billion estimated development cost to be funded by the US Government. Aerojet believed that the AR-1 could replace the RD-180 in the US Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle fleet, and that it would be more affordable.[7]

On 21 August 2014, the U.S. Air Force released an official request for information (RFI) for a replacement for the Russian RD-180 rocket engine. The RFI seeks information on “booster propulsion and/or launch system materiel options that could deliver cost-effective, commercially-viable solutions for current and future National Security Space (NSS) launch requirements. Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) is considering an acquisition strategy to stimulate the commercial development of booster propulsion systems and/or launch systems for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)-class spacelift applications.”

Can’t find the video with building and installing the RD-180 this will do until then.


Program Change

Political, Need competition in Defense Space Launches with SpaceX

Leader Sen. John McCain
Nelson on the use of RD-180 rocket engines

Elon Musk (SpaceX) & Michael Gass (ULA) At Senate Hearing on National Security Launch ProgramsDefense Subcommittee (Chairman Durbin) Time and Location: 10:00 a.m., in Room SD-192 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building Agenda:National Security Space Launch Programs Witnesses:

Cristina Chaplain, Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management Government Accountability Office;

Michael Gass, President and Chief Executive Officer, United Launch Alliance;

Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Designer, Space Exploration Technologies;

Dr. Scott Pace, Director, Space Policy Institute Elliott School of International Affairs George Washington University

Article: John McCain and Elon Musk: Corporate cronies gone wild
Defense bill squawks at Russia’s RD-180 rocket engine

Use of Russian-Made Rocket Engines, Senate Armed Services Committee, January 27, 2016


Blog:  Follow the SpaceX Money (sorry about the messy post)


The text and story was written long ago, but more information has come to light and some rework needs to be done. WIP