Spending Bill Lifts RD-180 Ban, Puts ULA Back in Competitive Game | SpaceNews.com
WASHINGTON – A massive U.S. government spending bill, released by lawmakers Dec. 16, effectively lifts a ban on the Russian rocket engine that powers United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket at least until Oct. 1, re-energizing competition for Defense Department launch contracts between ULA and SpaceX.
The new language, included in the omnibus spending bill for 2016, says “that notwithstanding any other provision of law” the Air Force could award a launch contract to any certified company “regardless of the country of origin of the rocket engine that will be used on its launch vehicle, in order to ensure robust competition and continued assured access to space.”
The Russian-built RD-180 engine powers ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket, which is used to launch a majority of national security satellites. The Atlas 5 is considered the only competitor to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 for nine upcoming military launches.
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