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Russia blocks future rocket engine sales to U.S.

Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, today announced that Russia will no longer sell any rocket engines to U.S. companies.

The head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, announced the new policy in an interview with the Russia 24 TV channel. “Today we have made a decision to halt the deliveries of rocket engines produced by NPO Energomash to the United States,” Rogozin said in the interview, according to Russia’s state press site Tass. “Let me remind you that these deliveries had been quite intensive somewhere since the mid-1990s.” Rogozin also added: “Let them fly on something else, their broomsticks, I don’t know what,” according to Reuters.

Russian engines are used on two American rockets, ULA’s Atlas-5 and Northrop Grumman’s Antares. The Atlas-4 however is being phased out, and has already received all the engines it needs for all of that rocket’s remaining flights. ULA plans to replace it with its new Vulcan rocket, using Blue Origin’s (long delayed) BE-4 engine.

Antares however is a more serious issue. Northrop Grumman uses this rocket to launch Cygnus freighters to ISS. It depends on two Russian engines for its Ukrainian-built first stage. The Ukraine War now probably makes building more Antares rockets impossible, which means at some point Northrop Grumman will no longer be able to supply ISS with cargo using Cygnus. Furthermore, NASA’s plan to use Cygnus’ engines to maintain ISS’s orbit will be impacted if Cygnus launches to ISS cease.

There is an option, though it too has issues. ULA has already launched one Cygnus to ISS using its Atlas-5. Though this rocket is going away, ULA could probably use its Vulcan instead — assuming Blue Origin finally gets the BE-4 engine operational so that Vulcan can finally launch.

Overall, Russia’s decision might cause a temporary blip in the American space effort, but if the government doesn’t get in the way I think that competition will force a solution. As Aesop said, necessity is the mother of invention.

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  • Skunk Bucket

    The last time Rogozin spouted off like that (saying that the US should try using a trampoline to get to orbit) he had a bit more leverage. Now, with SpaceX flying Crew Dragon and a couple more launchers that will start flying once (if) Bezos & Company fix their engine, Dmitry’s just blustering.

  • Edward

    Let’s Go Brandon, during the presidential election campaign, had bragged how Putin didn’t want him as president, because he was the only one who had gone toe to toe with Putin. I don’t remember that ever happening, but if Brandon said so, then it must be true.

    Today, with this war between Putin and Ukraine, we see Brandon toe to toe with Putin, making him quiver in fear, like a little … wait, that is not Brandon, that is President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

    Maybe Brandon is over there, with the pack of European Union leaders backing up Ukraine. No, no, he isn’t with them, either, nor is he cowering behind them.

    Wait, there he is, passing along Starlink terminals. Oh, no, that is just Elon Musk.

    If that isn’t Brandon, where’s Brandon? I can’t believe we are looking for the leader of the free world as though this is a game of Where’s Waldo.

    Who is that, behind Putin, stuffing dollars down his pants, like a stripper at a bachelor party? Why, there’s Brandon, trading oil for $70 million a day. Brandon has funded Putin’s war by half a billion dollars since the war’s start. How many tens of billions of dollars has Brandon funded it since taking office? So that is what Brandon thinks “toe to toe” looks like.

    There’s someone to be proud of, funding Putin’s war on Ukraine, while the rest of us root for Ukraine and against Putin. No wonder Brandon’s popularity is so low. He always does the wrong thing, and does the thing wrong.

  • Concerned

    “Biden has the Ukrainian people’s’ blood on his hands”—fantastic interview with a former DIA Russian analyst who foresaw this coming for years:

  • Alton

    From Quora:

    Jul 20, 2021 · 9 answers
    Former President Obama said, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to ” Obama” things up.” Have we underestimated him?

    As firefights and fires break out at a Six Nuclear Reactor Complex in Eastern Ukraine.

  • Richard M

    1. Under CRS-2, Northrop Grumman is still contracted for two remaining Cygnus resupply missions: NG-18 this August, and NG-19 next April.
    2. As it turns out, Northrop Grumman officials say they have enough engines and stages on hand to fly two (2) more Cygnus missions to the International Space Station (ISS) under the CRS-2 contract. So, seemingly, they’re covered for the existing contract.
    3. BUT: There may be another hitch. According to Jonathan McDowell this week, “even if there are Antares and AVUM stages ready [for these two missions] at launch sites, as I understand it they have Yuzhnoe experts required to launch them, who might need back room support from Dnepropetrovsk that is no longer available.” So it is unwise to assume that NG can fly these missions simply because they have the hardware. Eventually, NG will have to clarify this.
    4. There is little question that NASA will want to keep flying Cygnus for cargo, so a new contract seems inevitable. As Bob rightly says, “Furthermore, NASA’s plan to use Cygnus’ engines to maintain ISS’s orbit will be impacted if Cygnus launches to ISS cease.” That capability appears more critical with each passing day!
    5. Even assuming NG can find a way to launch these two remaining CRS-2 missions, it’s obvious that Antares is finished, and they will need a new launcher. It being impossible for them to develop a replacement in time (even if they wanted to, which I doubt), they’ll need to contract with another suitable launcher. Vulcan is the obvious candidate, but it is so far behind now that even if ULA gets flight engines from Blue Origin this summer, first flight now seems doomed to wait until early 2023. And after that, they have a long manifest, including urgent DoD payloads. How soon before they could actually get a launch on a Vulcan?
    6. I think it is hard to see how they won’t be forced to book at least one or two launches on the only other remaining U.S. medium class launcher with any spare capacity: Falcon 9. At least, to cover them until Vulcan is able to start flying them.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Must be a lot of Falcon / Merlin engineers approaching retirement. I wonder if someone will help Elon not get tied down to Falcon forever, by buying a fleet of Falcons ready to go, and setting up an up-to-orbit shop?

  • GaryMike

    Some of the Russian engines have been very, very good. Way good enough to not have to expense replacements for them domestically.

    Looks like that’s changing.

    If Russia no longer wants to participate in the Big Boy League, there’s always China; who competes mainly by stealing the intellectual property of the Big Boys because it’s way easier than actually performing like a Big Boy.

  • Captain Emeritus

    Goats are like mushrooms, because if you shoot a duck, I’m scared of toasters.
    Boe Jiden

  • pzatchok

    I have an odd thought.

    When Russia takes the Ukraine and all citizens are turned into Russians. Could Zalinskyy then run for president of Russia?
    Of course he would have to survive in hiding.

  • Questioner


    You asked:” Could Zalinskyy then run for president of Russia?”

    Sure, why not? You know, a good actor (that’s his trained profession) can adapt to any new situation.

  • Jeff Wright

    No hard feelings-the Troy, Alabama produced Javelin will still be exported to Russian tank turrets. Maybe folks would love SLS as a Kremlin Buster.

  • George C

    When I search for be-4 engine news I found nothing more recent than 11 months that is about the actual engine. No news is good news.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Cygnus has a diameter of 3.07 meters and a launch mass of 14,551 pounds

    Falcon has a diameter of 3,7 meters and can loft 34,000 lbs to LEO

    Looking in the published Falcon 9 payload user’s manual it appears that the diameter of Cygnus fits under their standard shroud (although the shroud developed on USG dime for national security payloads is larger if needed)

    The hard work of payload / launcher integration would need to be done and not diminishing that effort but at least on the surface, it seems like Falcon 9 could launch Cygnus and Cygnus can reboost the ISS.

  • George C: When it comes to Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine, no news is bad news. It means no progress towards operationality.

    A search here at BtB however comes up with this more recent update in December 2021:

    More delays for Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine

    We do have news, but it has not been good.

  • Cotour

    You know its funny, neither Russia nor China can really fully attain what they aspire to until they fully embrace the freedom of their people. And that exact concept is diametrically opposed to their very structure.

    Both are in a kind of a paradoxical state of existence, probably more for the Chinese than the Russians.

  • Jay

    Doubting Thomas,
    Thank you for finding out the specs of Cygnus. I too was wondering about if the Falcon-9 could carry it. I also wonder if SpaceX has a Dragon that is just a propulsion module on the drawing boards.

    So, the sale of Aerojet to Lockheed was blocked. I wonder if Northop Grumman would be interested in buying them or giving them the business of making a copy of the engine.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Jay –

    1. Musk has already declared that he will save the ISS. However, Dragon does not have the same dedicated (relatively) large propulsion system that Cygnus has.

    I suppose Dragon could affect ISS orbital decay by application of its thruster and maneuvering systems, but it would be slight. It is possible that Dragon could be redesigned to include a larger propulsion system for ISS reboost, but that would seem to take a long time.

    That is why I thought Cygnus launch on Falcon 9 would be a compromise solution.

    2. Regarding Aerojet and Northrop Grumman.

    As a point of fact, Northrop Grumman (NG) already has a huge rocket motor development cabability. NG merged with Orbital ATK in 2018, and in the process became the largest domestic supplier of rocket motors.

    At the time I worked for a “large aerospace / defense company” (Not NG) and was shocked that the FTC and DoD would let NG buy Orbital ATK. This left only 1 independent rocket producer Aerojet Rocketdyne in the US Defense market. The merger has already caused some major snits in the aerospace defense world with accusations that NG has too much power in prime contract competitions since they own O-ATK. NG signed an agreement with the FTC that O-ATK division would be a “merchant supplier” to all primes but that can be finessed in many ways.

    My personal opinion was that Lockheed seeing the relative ease with which NG bought Orbital ATK, figured they could do the same thing with Aerojet. They were wrong. But the fact remains, that if NG wanted to reimagine Antares with domestic boosters, they already have the internal capability to do just that.


  • Gealon

    Well this would be a good time for Elon’s engineers to stick an engine and additional fuel in the dragon’s trunk. It’d simplify boosting the station, or at the very least make it a little more efficient than blowing rocket exhaust off at angles from the capsules jets.

  • Mark

    Crew Dragon’s Super Dracos already point in the right direction and can throttle down to 20% and not all need to fire at once. Extra fuel in the trunk and a way to feed the engines seem to be a possible quick solution assuming the docking port and capsule can handle the reboost loads.. Sx might have to revisit the single use burst valve issue though.

  • Igor

    Mark, GMTA – the first thing I thought of was slapping a few (four?) Super Dracos in the trunk. Elon and company has probably something in and could have a pusher Dragon within 6 months OR LESS. Especially if the Goobermint gets off their back.

    Just spitballing here.

    As for BE4’s, fuggedaboudit. Bozos overpromised and is undedelivering. Raptor and Raptor 2 are already operational, and if push comes to shove (pun intended) SpaceX can use a (known, proven) Falcon 1 engine – I’m sure they may have some sitting around somewhere!!

  • pzatchok

    Just slightly modify a dragon capsule for cargo and boost service. For this the Dragon does not even need the escape rockets.
    Integrate the second stage and the service trunk to share fuel and power.

    Of course the details need hammered out the basic parts are there.

  • pzatchok

    Just looked it up and it looks like they use the dracos as maneuvering engines for docking.

    They might have to move them for a better center of mass if they keep the second stage attached.

  • sippin_bourbon

    I saw one of the YouTubers talking about how fuel in the trunk, right next to where the Draco’s hot jets exhaust would burn, may be a safety issue. I think Manning talked about how many standard rocket burn would not do. There are vibration and resonance issues to consider.

    I do not know all the details, but it is not simple.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Gealon, Mark, Igor, pzatchok, sippin_bourbon –

    Mods to Dragon sound like it would make Dragon more versatile.

    As Igor said, all it would take is the government to get out of the way. I think that might prove harder for NASA than one would think.

    Integration of Cygnus to Falcon 9 might avoid NASA’s squeamishness of anything touching their ISS that is not “fully” qualified.

  • Gealon

    Yeah, you don’t need something as powerful as a Super Draco to reboost the station. You want to put as little stress on it as possible both for the station structure’s sake and the experiments inside. You don’t want to be kicking the place in the rear with an engine designed to carry a capsule, even if it can be throttled, but rather give it a gentle nudge with a maneuvering jet.

    If NASA is ok with Cygnus boosting the station, then yes, we need to get a Cygnus on top of a falcon and ditch the Russian engines.

  • pawn

    The Cygnus engine that is designed for reboosting the ISS is made in Japan and has a thrust of 500 N.

    From what I can quickly dig up, Draco thrusters are rated at 400 N. It looks like the rear facing ones have a thrust axis about 45 deg from the longitudinal axis of the capsule so firing two opposing thrusters would give a total thrust of around 550 N.

  • Col Beausabre

    Roscosmos posts CGI video of Russians splitting ISS and operating their half on its own

    Experts say US could operate ISS on its own

    Former astronaut Scott Kelly tells Rogozin to find a job at McDonalds

    “Kelly wrote, translated from Russian: “Dimon, without those flags and the foreign exchange they bring in, your space program won’t be worth a damn. Maybe you can find a job at McDonald’s if McDonald’s still exists in Russia.””

    Musk should hire Kelly as one of his spacecraft captains

    This keeps getting better and better – we have a war (of words) in outer space!

  • Doubting Thomas

    The only fairly detailed Reboost info I can find is a reboost report from 2015. In that reboost, burn duration was 12 minutes, 17 seconds with a Delta-V of 1.34 meters/second for the European ATV vehicle. The longest I can find for a DRACO burn is a ten minute burn as part of the qualification of DRACO in 2008.

    I would be a big fan of SpaceX continuing to upgrade and enhance Dragon but I suspect that Musk wants SpaceX focused like a laser on Starship.

  • Max

    Would it be possible to upgrade the station with ion engines? A few in strategic locations, working together, for continuous thrust (or just when the station is in sunlight) to counteract the drag of the atmosphere?
    I know ion propulsion is very small and may need modifications for increasing the thrust and tanks of extra fuel (Xenon? which can be safely delivered with food and supplies) The low power is a good thing because the structure will not be under any stress that will compromise it.
    New Technology might be the answer, like iodine thrusters.

    The upside is it that it can be self maintaining for years in case there are supply issues. (short of a nuclear war or a Carrington event)

  • Mark

    Gealon, Igor, pzatchok, sippin_bourbon,

    They don’t call them Super Dracos for no reason. 68-73kN even at 20% is 14.2kN thrust at sea level and there are 8 of them! This much thrust would probably break something.

    The original idea was to add a trunk tank and some plumbing for a quick fix. Plan B. Replace the Supers with Dracos on Crew Dragon since Cargo Dragon doesn’t have Super Dracos installed. Rip out life support, seats consoles etc out since “Boost Dragon” would no longer be human rated. Maybe use an end of life Crew Dragon that you don’t mind expending.

    Plan C. Add X number of Dracos to Cargo Dragon where the Supers would have been. Plan B or C whatever is easiest, would still need extra fuel tank/s, and could probably fly some cargo as well unless fuel is a more important payload. There is a lot of room in that trunk for a tank. I believe the Dracos are smaller than the Supers so there should be plenty of room for them.

    Plan D. Stack a Cygnus on F9 and call it “Broomstick”. This is probably the easiest solution technically.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Correct me if I am wrong, but one of the things about the SuperDracs is that they use a “bursting disk” valve.
    They switched to that after the explosion one had during testing.

    That means they cannot be turned off and on.
    Throttled perhaps, but the duration of the burn is just as important as the thrust itself.

    And revisiting these and changing it would require recertification.

    I am thinking a modified cargo dragon is the better way to approach this problem, assuming the Cygnus cannot handle it.

  • Gealon

    If I am remembering correctly Max, one of the things the cancelled, Russian Science and Power Platform was supposed to test, was an ion engine for keeping the station on orbit. That obviously isn’t going to happen, but it was thought of at some point. An ion engine equipped version of the Interim Propulsion unit would be ideal. Cut everything aft of Zaria loose and dock it to Zaria’s aft port and the it should be good to go. There’s plenty of power available from the existing solar arrays and if we want more for future expansion, modern panels could be added to the propulsion module before launch or even after on attachment points. There are a lot of options, not just chemical thrusters.

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