Thursday, January 22, 2015

US Navy uses Russian rocket engines to launch comsat

US Navy uses Russian rocket engines to launch comsat: The United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched an Atlas V rocket, carrying the US Navy's heaviest national security payload on Tuesday evening, according to live video footage from the launch site in Cape Canaveral Florida.

The rocket carried the Navy's third Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite, which the Navy said "operates like a smartphone network from space, vastly improving secure satellite communications for mobile US forces."

Currently, the United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture that brings together Boeing and Lockheed Martin to provide launch services to the US government, uses the Russian made RD-180 rocket in the first stage to power the Atlas V launch vehicle into space.

The US 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) prohibits the US Department of Defense from awarding or renewing contracts for launch vehicles that use Russian-made rockets. Under the NDAA, the current contract for ULA to use the RD-180, that runs until 2019, will not be affected.The United States currently has enough RD-180 rockets to continue launches until 2016. After, if the supplies are stopped, there would be significant delays in the ability to launch national security satellites into space, according to an RD-180 Availability Risk Mitigation Study. The Department of Defense continues to search for alternatives to the RD-180.