ULA buys 20 more Russian engines for Atlas 5

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With the Congressional ban on buying Russian rocket engines lifted, ULA today wasted no time and immediately purchased 20 more engines from its Russian supplier to use in its Atlas 5 rocket.

I could also title this post “The Death of the Vulcan Rocket”. With at least 20 engines available, ULA no longer has any need to develop that new rocket. The Air Force is still willing to overpay for Atlas 5 launches, and they will now have enough engines to fly that rocket for probably 5 to 10 more years. Since there have already been indications that the bean-counters at ULA have been reluctant to fund Vulcan’s development, I expect them to now kill it.

This of course will be a very short-sighted decision. They might get some business with the Altas 5 and the Delta from the government for those few years, but this will not make them competitive in the new rocket industry. Eventually, they are going to go the way of the American steel industry, which failed to innovate and compete with foreign companies, and in the end lost its business to those foreign companies.

In the case of aerospace, however, the competition is coming from American companies. And that is wholly to the good.


  • Frank

    Shameless ULA with their fat government contracts now gets a green light to send tax dollars to Russia instead of doing the right (and hard) thing of investing in the future and creating jobs and value at home. ULA is better at lobbying and turing a quick buck than building rocket engines.

  • D K Rögnvald Williams

    They will eventually be buying first stage rockets from SpaceX.

  • fred k

    So the ordering from Putin is now allowed. How quickly will they be delivered? Putin would be happy to take the check but deliver (or not) depending on his mood.

    Looking that the launch manifest from last year shows 10 launches. This buy looks like about 2 years of launches only. There is still a need for Vulcan (or preferably, a working Falcon Heavy)

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