The United States will shoot itself in the foot by putting sanctions on the use of Russian rockets, a Russian expert said.
Earlier this week, NASA awarded $US6.8 billion contract to Boeing and Elon Musk’s private SpaceX to taxi astronauts to the International Space Station and back.
Since NASA grounded the space shuttle back in 2011, it has been entirely reliant on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft, at a cost of around $71 million per person.
When tensions rose in Ukraine and US President Barack Obama started instituting a wave of punitive sanctions against Russian companies and businessmen, Musk prodded a Senate committee about the risk involved in relying on President Vladimir Putin.
“In light of Russia’s de facto annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and the formal severing of military ties, the Atlas V cannot possibly be described as providing assured access to space for our nation when supply of the main engine depends on President Putin’s permission.”
Now the US has switched from relying on the Atlas V expendable rocket, powered in part by a Russian-built RD-180 engine, to perhaps using the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, built with American parts.
That’s a big mistake, says senior researcher at Russia’s Central Institute of Motor Engineering, Hamlet Khanyan, in an interview yesterday with Pravda.
“As the saying goes, good luck,” he said.
“With the Russian technology, two tons of fuel burn in one second. I do not know when the Americans can achieve this.”
Khanyan pointed out the difference in the vapour trails left behind from the launch of the RD-180 engines compared to the US shuttles.
“From an American shuttle, when it takes off, there is a large tail left, and the smoke in the tail is very thick, because the combustion of fuel is incomplete, so it falls down. When a Proton rocket takes off, it leaves a thin plasma column in the air that is barely visible, with an intermittent fiery stream of the purple color. This means that our fuel burns completely, and the propulsive effort is stronger.”
He said NASA could deliver astronauts to the ISS, but it would be “very expensive and ineffective”.
While you have to take it all with the grain of salt that is Musk and Boeing’s craft are likely far more advanced than the space shuttle ever was, some of Khanyan’s comments are both pertinent and priceless. Here’s the highlights:
- “The cost of one Proton launch in comparison with that of a shuttle is ten times as low, so the Americans got addicted to our engines.”
- “They have money, they just print it, so they will invest.”
- “Will the Russian space industry suffer? I do not think so. It will only be relieved of freeloaders.”
There’s plenty more, including why the space race will start again and the need to start mining the moon.
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