The Pentagon will not be able to abandon the Russian rocket engine RD-180 on time? Problems with BE-4 can lead to exactly this
A fresh report from the US Audit Office indicates that problems in the development of the new Vulcan rocket from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) could prevent the US Department of Defense from abandoning the Russian RD-180 rocket engine by 2022, as required by Congress.
The problem lies precisely in the delay in the development of the main engine for the Vulcan rocket – the BE-4 from Blue Origin. The first stage will use two of these engines, each providing a thrust of almost 2500 kN.
No, no one will replace BE-4 with Russian RD-180 in Vulcan, because it is impossible. But delays could lead to the fact that the United States will have to continue using Atlas V missiles after 2022, and they are just equipped with RD-180 engines.
Back in 2016, the US Congress ordered the Pentagon to stop using missiles with Russian engines after 2022, but so far there is a possibility that a stalemate will form when there is simply no other way out. This will happen if ULA is unable to complete the BE-4 engine qualification prior to flying certification for the current year. Blue Origin itself has previously promised to deliver the first BE-4 engines later this year.
The RD-180 rocket engine was developed over 20 years ago on the basis of the Soviet RD-170 engine, which was and remains the most powerful liquid-propellant rocket engine in history.