Potential RD-180 Replacement Passes Initial Review

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s developmental AR1 rocket engine designed to replace the Russian-built RD-180 to launch military satellites passed its first major design review this week, the company announced. “We have achieved every milestone in our AR1 schedule to be ready” to deliver a flight-ready engine for certification in 2019, company president and chief executive officer Eileen Drake said in a Dec. 17 release. The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center issued a request for proposals in June to develop space launch solutions that aren’t reliant on the RD-180 to ensure military access to space in the face of heightened tensions with Russia. The Air Force plans to invest in as many as four promising industry efforts to develop either a new launch platform or a replacement engine for the current platform. The liquid-fueled AR1 is designed to directly replace the RD-180, which is used on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V, one of three rockets currently certified for national security space launches. The recent review tested the engine’s major components for both compatibility and effectiveness. “This is one of the most important design reviews the program will undergo during its development,” said space launch Vice President Julie Van Kleeck. “We apply rigorous design reviews as part of our overall development program, minimizing risk and helping ensure that we will meet the delivery schedule on a program of such national significance as AR1,” she added.