DENVER, CO, January 17, 1996 – Lockheed Martin Astronautics announced today it has selected the Pratt & Whitney unit of United Technologies Corporation and its Russian partner, NPO Energomash, to supply the RD-180 rocket engine for the new Atlas IIAR space launch vehicle. A firm contract with the Pratt & Whitney NPO Energomash team is expected to be signed after approval by the Russian government of the appropriate export licenses to support the program. Lockheed Martin is developing the Atlas IIAR to reduce costs, simplify operations and improve the reliability of launch services the company provides to U.S. government, and international and domestic commercial customers. NPO Energomash has been developing the RD-180 since March 1994 and, together with Pratt & Whitney, has agreed to meet the requirements for the first launch of an Atlas IIAR in December 1998.
The competition to select the engine for the Atlas IIAR began in 1995 among an
advanced engine being developed by the Rocketdyne division of Rockwell International; the Aerojet-sponsored NK-33, built by A/O NK company in Russia; and the RD-180. This engine, while debuting on the Atlas IIAR, also will be the baseline engine for the Lockheed Martin entrant in the competition to develop a new rocket for the U.S. Air Force called the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV).
Plans for development of the Atlas IIAR were discussed in detail at a Lockheed Martin technology symposium in Washington, D.C., last fall, but the engine selection had not been made. The Atlas IIAR is expected to replace the current Atlas series and is the first major step toward the company’s planned evolution to a new family of lower cost vehicles featuring common elements, including a core booster stage. When fully developed, the common core boosters would be capable of launching a broad range of medium to heavy payloads.
James W. McAnally, Astronautics president, said, “This selection will round out our team for the Atlas IIAR and EELV. The RD-180 provides design margin to support all of our customers, and this partnership between Pratt & Whitney and NPO Energomash meets all of the program and government requirements for cost efficiency and supply by American companies. We are extremely pleased with the aggressive response provided to our request, and look forward to seeing this winning team perform.”
The Pratt & Whitney team has agreed to form an integrated team with Lockheed Martin Astronautics to complete the design of the Atlas IIAR. Because Pratt & Whitney also builds the RL-10 engines for the Atlas’ Centaur upper stage, this selection makes them the principal propulsion provider for both the booster and the upper stage, a first for Atlas.
This project has the endorsement of the Russian government, which considers today’s announcement a major step in their space partnership with America.
The Russian Space Agency has followed this competition closely and considers the RD-180 selection to be technically sound. “The selection of the RD-180 reflects the technical advances made by Russian space propulsion over the past 25 years,” said Dr. Alexander Kuznetzov, deputy director of the Russian Space Agency. “While the NK-33 was the current state-of-the-art for its time, it does not offer the performance or efficiency of the RD-180. We will be following this development closely, and we hope to build on this partnership for future developments.”
This will mark the first use of Russian designed propulsion systems on a U.S. designed launch vehicle and represents a breakthrough on several levels. Michael W. Wynne, vice president and general manager of Astronautics’ Space Systems, said, “We at Lockheed Martin see this long term partnership as providing very efficient access to space. It is truly the wave of the future to bring international technical excellence together as a team. We consider this not only a partnership involving NPO Energomash, but also an expanding partnership with the Russian Federation. We look forward to providing this product to our customers as well as providing our shareholders a fair return on this investment.”
NPO Energomash is located in Khimky, Russia, a suburb of Moscow. It has been in the rocket engine business since its inception in Russia. Every current launch system in Russia uses engines developed by this company.
Pratt & Whitney has a long history in the rocket and jet engine business. Its current RL-10 is still the workhorse engine for high energy upper stages in the United States.
Astronautics is one of four operating units of Lockheed Martin’s Space & Strategic Missiles Sector headquartered in Bethesda, MD. Astronautics designs, develops, tests and manufactures a variety of advanced technology systems for space and defense. Chief products include space systems, space launch systems and ground systems.