No Quick Fix to RD-180

The Air Force’s outgoing acquisition chief, William LaPlante, is skeptical that the US will find a way to fulfill its military space launch wishes in the next half decade. Speaking with reporters in the Pentagon as he prepares to leave office, LaPlante commented on the effort to obtain a new rocket engine alternative to the Russian RD-180 that United Launch Alliance has been using to power US rockets. “Everybody wants all three,” LaPlante said. “Everybody wants off the Russian engine, everybody wants competition, everybody wants two independent ways into space. It’s law, it’s policy. The problem is … we’re struggling to get all three.” The law directing this policy demands an unrealistic timeline, LaPlante said, and the problem is “bigger than” simply restructuring competitions to loft any given type of satellite. “The fact that people don’t understand that … [is] why I’m a little emotional about this. Because we’ve explained this in hearings … over and over and over again.” LaPlante said “I don’t see how you do all three in the next four … or five years … You’re going to have to pick two of those three.”