Domestic Alternative

By Courtney Albon / September 30, 2014 at 8:21 PM

Several members of California's congressional delegation told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a joint letter this week that they are concerned with the Defense Department's continued reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 engine to send national security payloads to space.

The lawmakers, 32 in total, call for an immediate solution to the problem of Russian reliance, and urge DOD to leverage the existing domestic industrial base in whatever solution it develops to replace the engine, which powers the United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket.

"It is time for the department to look to these existing U.S. Engine manufacturers and launch vehicle providers," the lawmakers write.

The letter also urges DOD to continue to pursue competition in its Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle business. ULA is currently the sole-source provider of EELV missions but SpaceX, a California-based space vehicle manufacturer, is pursuing certification as a potential competitor for future missions.