Saturday, October 17, 2015

U.S. Compromises Own Security By Banning Russian Rocket Engines

Image for the news result
Russian Soyuz blasts off from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 2nd - saving the ISS from potential evacuation.

How dumb is dumb, and while we're at it, how childish is childish? The answer is a '10 out of 10' on the extreme dumbo-childish side when a nation's congress and defense establishment reacts with emotions and pique and threatens its own (space) interests, as well as national security. In this case because those bad nasty Russkies are "behaving badly" and have to be taught a lesson by "God's country", 'Murica!

In case people forgot,  the Russians came to the rescue of the ISS crew back on July 2nd  with three tons of food, fuel and other supplies ferried up, mere days after the Elon Musk private commercial rocket (Space-X)  failed miserably. That failed launch not only messed up reception of needed supplies but also caused consternation for more than 60 Colorado science students who had patiently prepared experiments - all of which came to perdition.

How was the Space-X different from the Russian rocket OR to the previous successful military spy satellite launches? This is the 64 dollar question that needs to be addressed. The primary difference is that the military-Pentagon has been using a proven performer in the Russian-produced RD-180 rocket engine (also used for the Soyuz)  which powers the Atlas V that lofts two thirds of all national security satellites.

As noted in a WSJ piece at the time ('National Security After the Space X Explosion', June 30, p. A18) by William Shelton, the U.S. government "encouraged Lockheed Martin to use this engine primarily because of its performance and relatively low cost."

Pretty straightforward, eh?  Well, for anyone of normal intelligence or higher, but evidently not a dumbass Reeptard congress, determined to teach those Russkies a lesson or two. Which makes one wonder who or what our illustrious representatives really are: spoiled, mentally deficient brats or mature and responsible leaders.

You can decide!

Last week the Pentagon, according to a Denver Post story ('Pentagon to ULA - No Russian Engines') the Pentagon refused to grant a waiver allowing United Launch Alliance to bypass a congressional ban on Russian-made engines that the company needs to compete in the national security launch market (as well as ISS resupply)

This refers to last year's congressional legislation that prohibits the use of any Russian-made engines on U.S. rockets.  As a result of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act which became law last December, the RD-180 Russian made engines were banned with the exception of the few remaining in stock. According to Shelton (ibid.):

"The purported rationale is to uphold Russian sanctions and avoid rewarding the country's bad behavior in Ukraine"

Which is totally stupid and irrational, as I also noted last year in terms of NASA halting cooperation with the Russians, e.g.
As Shelton noted, the U.S. will run out of RD-180 engines well before the new rocket is ready. Would the military be ready to go to Elon Musk's Falcon  9,  1.1 full thrust engine when the RD-180s run out? After the recent performance of the 1.1 prototype for ISS resupply, don't hold your breath.

But there was still an 'out' in terms of a waiver.

Shelton writes:

"In April, the House of Representatives passed a new, slightly revised fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. It contains a clause that allows the Secretary of Defense to waive the ban on the RD-180 for as long as needed if the Secretary deems it in the national interest to do so."

But evidently, the Secretary of Defense - either on his own or with the Obamians' pressure, is as determined to teach them Russkies a lesson as the congressional nitwits, given the waiver wasn't granted.  (And bear in mind this is to support the launch of our own national security satellites, for god's sake!).

As the recent Post article noted "ULA had pleaded with the Pentagon for a waiver that would allow it to use more RD-180 engines to power its Atlas V rocket".  The Centennial, CO company also tried to explain to the Pentagon pinheads that it had 4 engines it could use for national security launches but needed 14 to launch payloads such as spy and communications satellites.

SO this begs the question of why the Pentagon big cheeses would cut off their noses to spite their faces in the national security satellite sphere. Was it THAT important to teach a lesson to the Russians to not mess with Uncle Sam? Especially when Sam lacks the rockets to do the launches himself or even resupply his own on the space station?

Cleverly, a Pentagon spokesperson said it "cannot be in the position of relying on only one source of space launch for critical national security launches ....that must be launched reliably and on schedule"

Fine, so why not use the remaining RD-180s - which has the best record for reliability and safety- for at least four launches? Unless there's another reason afloat - that the eggheads at the Pentagon don't want to rely on any engines that are Russian.

As I said, as dumb as the congressional fools! Who needs realpolitik when idiocy can suffice?

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