Let’s deviate away from SpaceX for a moment – let’s talk about United Launch Alliance. United Launch Alliance, or ULA, is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing Defense, Space & Security. Lockheed and Boeing have been involved in rocketry since the the 1950’s, having combined between them over a century of rocketry experience, to say the least about their other aeronautics and spacecraft endeavors.
Right now ULA offers launches on 3 rockets – Delta II, Delta IV, and Atlas V. Delta II and Delta IV use legacy missile derived engines and Space Shuttle Main Engine derived engines respectively, while the Atlas V, much like the Atlas III before it, use Russian engines – in this case the RD-180.
Now, the RD-180 is one of the most efficient rocket engines produced. Indeed, the rockets of the Soviet Union and later, Russia, have proven to be quite efficient and reliable, and in their use on the Atlas V shows at current 71 launches with no first stage failures. Reliability is what you want, right?
Apparently, no. It’s more important that the engines be “made in America” according to many people who comment on ULA’s posts. Constantly I see comment after comment regarding such, ignoring the entire point of the post ULA makes – no, it’s more important to throw blind patriotism into this, rather than see that humanities endeavors in space should go beyond the idea of national borders.
People also ignore the fact that ULA is working on finding an efficient replacement to the RD-180 that is “home grown” as they say, so it isn’t like the political climate and the problems sourcing RD-180 engines isn’t something being addressed by ULA, in fact it’s the total opposite.
Now, the hilarious thing about this, to me, is not only the fact that the Centaur upper stage does use American designed engines (RL-10) but even then the fact that much of the early rockets, and their descendants, were designed with the help of German rocket scientists captured at the tail end of World War 2.
I’m getting slightly off topic here… My point really is, quite simply, what does it matter what the source of the rocket engines is? Is the goal of getting a payload into orbit safely really less important to you than who makes the rocket engines that get it there? It’s as if people want the political climate of the world to be as tense as possible, and anything that could help ease tensions, like such trade and usage agreements, are inherently bad. People complain about the use of Russian engines, but fail to ever provide a point on why that’s a bad thing.
Really, again, someone tell me, what’s it matter?
(Please note: if this article seems more disjointed than normal, it’s because I feel pretty terrible today, and wrote it as a spur-of-the-moment reaction to comments posted online, rather than as a normal planned article)