U.S. production of RD-180 engines a major step closer
Posted: September 24, 2003

The RD-180 engine. Credit: Pratt & Whitney
The move toward U.S. production of the RD-180 Russian rocket engine has taken a giant step forward, as four data packages were delivered in support of the U.S. Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)/Lockheed Martin Atlas program. The complete engine documentation is now in the U.S. being translated, and the next step is to build key components in the U.S. facility of Pratt & Whitney (P&W) located in Florida.

The data was delivered to the West Palm Beach office of RD AMROSS LLC, a partnership between P&W Space Propulsion and NPO Energomash of Russia. The shipments consisted of more than 100,000 documents that represent the data required to produce an RD-180 engine in the U.S. The first data shipment was received in April 2003, and the final package was received in mid-August. All data packages were delivered ahead of schedule and exceeded expectations.

"This accomplishment is a significant step forward in our commitment to assured access to space and the establishment of U.S. production of the RD-180 engine," said Robert Monaco, president of RD AMROSS. "The joint cooperation of the Russian government, the U.S. government, Lockheed Martin, NPO Energomash, RD AMROSS and Pratt & Whitney enabled the data shipments to occur rapidly and trouble free."

The organized task of translating the data and preparing it for usage is currently taking place. The data includes engineering drawings, design specifications, certification design documentation and manufacturing documentation, in addition to materials data, test data and tooling documentation.

The delivery of data is part of a phased approach to complete co-production. The next phase, called Mod 2, includes the technical evaluation of transferred data; through the utilization of this transferred data, a pre-burner/stator assembly will be built in the U.S. Based on early delivery of the documentation, Lockheed Martin and RD AMROSS signed an agreement on Sept. 19, 2003, accelerating the start of Mod 2.

"Receiving the final set of RD-180 design documentation represents the completion of a major milestone for the Atlas program and accelerating the start of Mod 2 further demonstrates the commitment we have made for establishing a U.S. capability to manufacture the RD-180," said Jim Sponnick, vice president of Atlas programs at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "The RD-180 has proven to be the premiere boost phase rocket engine utilized in the space industry today. The performance it provides our Atlas III and Atlas V launch systems is just outstanding."

The RD-180 is the only LOX/Kerosene oxygen rich staged combustion engine flying in the U.S. today. It incorporates leading-edge technologies such as a single pre-burner, single-shaft main turbopump unit, spherical no leak flanges and a milled channel wall nozzle for safety and robustness of the rocket engine. It generates nearly one million pounds of thrust.

To date, the RD-180 is six for six on its flights, enjoying 100 percent mission success. The RD-180 has flown successfully on Lockheed Martin's Atlas III (three missions) and in August 2002 set the foundation for the Air Force's EELV program when it lifted the first Atlas V (since then, it has flown two more Atlas V missions including the Atlas V 500 version). The RD-180 is derived from the

Russian-built, four-chamber RD-170 that met the 10-reuse and human-rating requirements in that country.

P&W Space Propulsion, a leader in liquid, solid, electric and hypersonic propulsion, has sites located at West Palm Beach, Fla. and San Jose, Calif. P&W, a United Technologies company, is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines, space propulsion systems and industrial gas turbines.

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