A Space Race, But On Russia's Terms
In order to maintain its space superiority, the United States currently relies on Russian technology – so much so, in fact, that every once in a while American claims to space superiority seem rather hollow. This state of affairs has been brought into sharp focus in recent weeks.
On August 27, the Kremlin's English-language television channel, Russia Today, reported that the Security Council of the Russian Federation was considering an export ban of the venerable RD-180 rocket engine. This engine is sold exclusively to the U.S. launch firm United Launch Alliance to power its Atlas V rocket. The vehicle is considered by many industry insiders, analysts and casual observers to be the workhorse of the U.S. Launch fleet, and is regularly contracted to lift NASA, National Reconnaissance Office and United States Air Force payloads into orbit.
The Russian decision, therefore, would be potentially disastrous from a national security standpoint. Losing the RD-180 would have a serious effect on the United States' ability to access space, thereby impacting everything from military communications and control to the intelligence and commercial satellites enabling the United States to effectively pursue and protect its interests on the world stage.