Two U.S. aerospace companies fighting over the Russian RD-180 engine made by NPO "Energomash", designed for launch vehicles of the middle class. Antimonopoly Service U.S. suspects United Launch Alliance is that it does not give its competitor — Orbital Sciences — being able to buy these engines for their rockets Antares.
U.S. Federal Trade Commission began an antitrust investigation in respect of the joint venture corporation "Lockheed Martin" and "Boeing» United Launch Alliance (ULA), which is developing launchers and launching into orbit satellites for public use.
It is suspected that illegally depriving competitors of access to mission-critical component parts from the contractor RD Amross, which, in turn, prevents them from fully participating in tenders. This was reported by Reuters, were in possession of the documents of the Federal Trade Commission.
RD Amross — a joint venture between Russia's NPO "Energomash" and the American company Pratt &Whitney Rocketdyne. The first produces RD-180, and the second delivers them to their ULA rockets "Atlas".
According to American experts, these Russian engines in their characteristics are the only alternative for the heavy launch vehicles capable to put into orbit the U.S. military reconnaissance satellites and satellites for the needs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
ULA prevents RD Amross (and Russia's NPO "Energomash") to sell the RD-180 engines for missiles from other manufacturers, including the American company Orbital Sciences, which is trying to break into the lucrative market launch rockets for the government.
The company is a competitor Orbital Sciences ULA. It stated that, without the possibility of using the RD-180, a single liquid-fuel rocket motor that is optimal in performance for their rockets Antares, they are deprived of the opportunity to win government tenders and get access to lucrative orders.
Now the first stage of the launcher of the middle class Antares has two liquid-fuel engines Aerojet AJ-26. These engines are modified engines NK-33 production SNTK the Kuznetsov, which were also developed during the Soviet era. They were created for the super-heavy N-1 rocket, but the motor project was closed in the 70s, along with the Soviet lunar program.
Thus, the two American companies use Russian engines for their rockets. ULA uses to rocket "Atlas" engine RD-180 collected by the NGO "Energomash" (Khimki), and Orbital Sciences for its rocket Antares (created with the participation of Ukrainian CB "South" and "Pivdenmash") — Russian engines NC -33, refitted and renamed the Aerojet AJ-26.
According to Reuters, the U.S. regulator has launched an investigation because of the failed attempts to acquire Orbital Sciences RD-180 engines for its new mid-range missiles Antares.
Orbital Sciences has developed its own carrier rocket with Russian engine to perform the contract signed with NASA to deliver cargo into orbit contract amount — $ 1.9 billion. 2016 Orbital Sciences is to provide a minimum of 8 Antares launches to the ISS with cargo in the interest of NASA. Antares will output loads up to 7 tons into low orbit. The first trial run Antares rocket and Cygnus space freighter carried out at the end of April this year from Baikonur on about. Wallops (Virginia, USA).
"Engines Aerojet AJ-26 — this is a good and reliable engine that has only one problem. These engines are no longer produced. The available engines Aerojet AJ-26 should be enough for the company to fulfill commitments to the contract NASA to deliver cargo to the ISS. However, after performing this contract, Orbital Sciences, of course, would like to get new orders for commercial launches. To do this, it is more appropriate engine RD-180 ", — says the newspaper VIEW corresponding member of the Russian Tsiolkovsky Academy of Cosmonautics, Yuri Caras.
It is clear that the Alliance ULA, which occupies a dominant position in providing launch services, not very pleased with the prospect of a competitor, the expert adds.
Reuters Industry experts believe that the Orbital Sciences requires access to the RD-180 engines for launch vehicles Antares, to survive in the market. Orbital Sciences is not going to compete with ULA in heavy rocket launches, but the company would like to become a full-fledged player in the delivery medium loads into space by rockets Antares. And for the government of such cooperation would be beneficial, as the Antares is worth less than $ 100 million.
A spokesman for ULA Jessica Rai confirmed the conduct of the investigation, adding that the company is cooperating with the competition authorities. The same was said in the press-service of the Pratt &Whitney. According to Rai, the contracts for the purchase of ULA RD-180 engines are lawful and comply with the rules of competition. The Federal Trade Commission declined to comment.
Russian RD-180 engine, which is due to quarrel American aerospace companies, even in the middle of the 1990s, the United States won the tender announced by the two American and one European firms.
The agreement with Lockheed Martin provides delivery to the U.S. for U.S. Atlas rockets in a total of 101 RD-180 engine made by NPO "Energomash". The first production engine RD-180 was raised in the United States January 2, 1999. At the beginning of 2013 in the U.S. was delivered 63 engine. Over the next five years, the NGO "Energomash" should be put in the U.S. for about 30 rocket engine RD-180 for the Atlas-5 rocket. This contract was signed in December 2012. The signing of the contract will allow the company to get a guaranteed capacity utilization, noted in an NGO "Energomash".
The RD-180 is designed based on the RD-170 used on the launch vehicle (LV), "Energy" and "Zenith". Unlike quad RD-RD-170 engine 180 has two combustion chambers and a new lower power turbopump assembly driven by a single gas generator. Thrust RD-180 is 400 tons. Complete assembly of the RD-180 is to "Energomash." The combustion chambers are supplied in Khimki from Samara, special steel — from Chelyabinsk. The work cycle of the assembly of one engine is an average of 16 months.