Bennet, Colleagues Introduce Amendment to Strengthen Reliability in National Security Space Launches

Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today joined several Senate colleagues to introduce an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 that would give the U.S. space launch industry five years to transition away from the use of Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines for national security launches.

"This amendment will help ensure there is true competition and reliability in our national security space launches, and will allow the Department of Defense to responsibly transition to a domestic engine," Bennet said. "Competition is ultimately best for the taxpayer, and assured access to space is critical to our warfighters in the field and to our national security as a whole. "

The U.S. Air Force buys launch services from two American companies certified to bid on national security missions, United Launch Alliance and SpaceX. United Launch Alliance - a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin - predominantly uses an Atlas V rocket powered by a Russian-made RD-180 engine for national security launches.

The use of these Russian-made rocket engines has come under scrutiny, and a provision in the underlying bill would prohibit their use and eliminate competition in the market.

Bennet's amendment allows the continued use of the RD-180 rocket for five more years while a U.S.-made alternative is developed. American companies such as Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne are currently working to build alternatives that are expected to be ready in five years.