America’s Cycles of Change

Pentagon Still Needs Russian Rocket Engines to Keep Space Superiority

Tue, 10 May 2016

Most Americans do not realize that their industrial base has shrunken so much and hat their space hardware policy is still in such disarray that even the US Air Force remains dependent on Russian rocket engines to power America’s own Atlas rockets launching the most sensitive and secret satellites into space.

The Republican-controlled Congress does not want this state of affairs to continue and has approved the development as rapidly as possible of new US-manufactured large rocket engines. But they won’t be ready to work reliably until 2020 at the very earliest.

The situation is so dire that even US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who has eagerly approved dangerously confrontational US military deployments throughout Eastern Europe from Estonia through Ukraine to Georgia, has urged senators to approve continued purchase of the relatively cheap and reliable Russian RD-180 rocket engines.

“We can hold our noses, buy RD-180s until that situation is created and fly Atlases with RD-180s,” Carter told the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee on April 27. “The alternative is to fly our payloads on Delta, which is technically feasible, but much more expensive. And so that is the choice.”

The Pentagon believes it will need to buy at least 18 more RD-180s from Moscow to keep up its own schedule of maintaining space surveillance assets, in large part to monitor Russia.

Carter acknowledged that the United States still has not properly tested any operational and cost-efficient replacement to the Atlas V, which is built by the US United Launch Alliance but powered by the RD-180.

Why is this happening? It is the product of 50 years of disastrous US Free Trade policies.

My 2015 book Cycles of Change – available on this web site – documents the relentless destruction caused by these policies, especially the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994 and China joining the World Trade Organization and gaining unlimited access to US domestic markets in 2000.

George W. Bush, the dimmest of all US presidents, hadn’t a clue what to do about any of this.

This industrial erosion has now made “the greatest nation the world has ever seen” totally dependent on Russia to gets its astronauts and even its national security satellites into orbit.

Donald Trump recognizes the nature of the crisis. No other US politician else does.