Northrop Grumman officials have now revealed that it has been forced to delay the next Cygnus cargo mission to ISS from August to October because of “supply chain issues.”
What these supply chain issues were the company did not specify. However, the Antares rocket that launches Cygnus uses Russian engines attached a Ukrainian first stage. Northrop Grumman presently only has enough engines and stages for two more flights. While there are indications that the Ukrainian war has not yet prevented the delivery of future Ukrainian first stages, the Russians have blocked all further engine sales.
A new American rocket engine company, Ursa Major, is building a new engine capable of replacing the Russian engines, but the engine won’t be ready until ’25.
The delay could be Northrop Grumman’s effort to stretch out the schedule of its last two Antares launches in the hope that the Russians will lift their embargo, which might happen based on the firing by Putin of Dmitry Rogozin as head of Roscosmos. Rogozin had been the person who imposed the embargo. His removal suggests that Putin is trying to ease the tensions between the west and Russia, at least in the area of space.
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