In order to reduce reliance on Russian-built rocket engines, the U.S. Air Force announced this week an $804-million agreement with Aerojet Rocketdyne and United Launch Alliance to develop the AR1 engine.
“AR1 will return the United States to the forefront of kerosene rocket propulsion technology,” said Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO & President Eileen Drake in a statement. “We are incorporating the latest advances in modern manufacturing, while capitalizing on our rich knowledge of rocket engines to produce a new, state-of-the-art engine that will end our reliance on a foreign supplier to launch our nation’s national security assets.”
United Launch Alliance—a joint venture between Lockheed Martin, as reported earlier by R&D, and The Boeing Co.—has used Russian-built RD-180 engines to launch payloads from the Pentagon into orbit. United Launch Alliance was formed in 2006.
The introduction of the RD-180 engine was meant as a way to stifle the proliferation of Russian military technology. It “was jointly developed by the U.S. and Russian Defense Industries to provide the Atlas V (launch vehicle) with a technologically advanced and reliable engine,” according to the United Launch Alliance.
The Air Force plans on investing two-thirds of the $804 million to complete the AR1’s development by 2019. Initially, the Air Force will fund the development with $115.3 million, and Aerojet Rocketdyne and the United Launch Alliance will contribute $57.7 million. The total government investment is $536 million, with $268 million coming from the other partners.
The AR1 will be compatible with the Atlas V, Vulcan, and other launch vehicles that are in development. It’ll be flying by 2020, according to Drake.
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