Spending Bill Would Lift US Ban On Russian Rockets

U.S. defense contractors might soon be able to utilize Russian-made rockets to send cargo into space once again.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

U.S. defense contractors might soon be able to utilize Russian-made rockets to send cargo into space once again.

A massive year-end spending bill to avert a government shutdown reportedly includes a provision that would strike a cap on Russian-made rockets, which was implemented by Congress in the aftermath of Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

Currently, the United Launch Alliance β€” a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin that serves as a primary Defense Department space contractor β€” can only purchase nine RD-180 rocket engines.

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama β€” whose state is home to ULA's production facility β€” said that the cap was reckless and could result in a years-long gap between Defense Department launches, "which undermines our national security."

(AP Photo)(AP Photo)

"While I strongly believe that we should not be dependent upon any foreign power for access to space, it is far too risky to ban the RD-180 until we have a domestically-produced engine that has the same capabilities," Shelby said.

The spending bill also includes funding for development of an American-made rocket, which the Defense Department suggested might not be ready by its 2019 deadline.

Not everyone, however, believes that lifting the cap is a good idea.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, slammed Shelby and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, over the provision and suggested that he could vote against the spending bill in its entirety.

β€œThis omnibus appropriations bill will send hundreds of millions of dollars to Vladimir Putin, his cronies and Russia’s military-industrial base as Russia continues to occupy Crimea and destabilize Ukraine,” McCain said.

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