The United States Deputy Secretary of Defense, Robert Work, stated in an interview with Reuters on April 8th, that the Pentagon needs to buy 18 more Russian RD-180 rocket engines in order to launch military satellites into orbit. According to him, this need will continue to be in place until a similar American engine is developed. “We see no means by which to develop these engine types within the next six years. We need Russian RD-180 rocket engines during the transition period,” Work explained.
After the annexation of Crimea by Russia, the U.S. Congress prohibited the purchase of these engines until 2019. However, the ban was lifted due to the concern that should the U.S. stop using the RD-180 engines that are installed on Atlas V rockets, the only option will be those manufactured by United Launch Alliance, part of the Space X company, founded by Elon Musk.
Work noted that U.S leaders want to have at least two reliable ways of launching devices into space. In February 2016, the Unites States Air Force signed contracts with two American companies; Aerojet Rocketdyne and United Launch Alliance, in order to prepare a substitution for Russian rocket engines.