Aerojet Rocketdyne Touts Possible RD-180 Replacement

Colorado Springs, Colo. The AR1, being developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne and Dynetics, is “the most logical solution” to end US reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 engine, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s vice president of advanced space and launch said Tuesday at the 32nd Space Symposium. The AR1 engine “is the lowest risk and cost solution to the taxpayer, and solves the problem on the fastest schedule,” Julie Van Kleeck told reporters during a media briefing. “All other solutions being discussed today are more risky and bring no added value from a performance or capability standpoint, and do cost more,” she added. The Air Force has been focused on finding a replacement for the RD-180 engine, which powers the Atlas 5 launch vehicle, since the Russian invasion of Crimea. But doing so is not quick or easy, and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James in February testified that she isn’t sure it’s possible to meet the congressionally mandated 2019 timeline. Tuesday, Van Kleeck said two AR1s configured together in a single unit could give the Atlas 5 more propulsion than what the RD-180 provides, and the engine will require only minimal changes to the Atlas infrastructure. The engine is on track to be delivered by 2019, Van Kleef said, though it would take additional time for the Atlas 5 to be ready to launch with the new engine. The Air Force in March awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne an agreement for a public-private partnership to develop the AR1. The Air Force also has enter?ed into similar agreements with SpaceX and Orbital ATK.