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Government dithering: The Air Force has hired the Aerospace Corporation to evaluate how long it will take to replace the Russian engine used by the Atlas 5 rocket.
“I see numbers all over the map,” [Ray Johnson, vice president at Aerospace] said May 14 during the World Space Risk Forum here. “Some people say they could do it in five years. Others estimate it’s going to be longer than that, and that it could be eight.” Aerospace Corp. work evaluating what it would take to develop a hydrocarbon engine to replace the RD-180 — if U.S.-Russia relations sour to the point where the engine is no longer available or wanted — “is literally just a few weeks old,” Johnson said.
Time is critical on this issue. It seems to me a better thing to do would be to immediately issue of Request for Proposals, which would quickly tell the Air Force what the American aerospace industry has to offer. They could then proceed right to construction, rather than studying the issue endlessly beforehand.
Moreover, why isn’t Lockheed Martin doing something about this? It is their rocket that is dependent on the Russians. Why is it the Air Force’s responsibility to save them?