It was announced on December 16 that Orbital Sciences had signed a contract with Energomash for the supply of new RD-181 rocket engines. Starting in 2015 they will be used in the assembly of the Antares rocket. Energomash developed the engine especially for Orbital Sciences. According to a source from the Russian Federal Space Agency, the contract is worth almost $1 billion.
In the words of Mark Pieczynski, the vice president of Orbital Sciences for Strategic Space Development, in its configuration the RD-181 is closer to the AJ-26, the engine used in the Antares, which is why the company will not have to spend resources on developing the new design project.
Ronald Grabe, vice president and general manager of Orbital's Launch System Group, told Aviation Week magazine that the search for a replacement for the AJ-26 went on for almost three years. In this period the company examined many foreign and American engines, but selected the RD-181 as being the best value considering its technical capabilities.
The ban on buying the RD-180 did not extend to the RD-181 engines. According to sources in the Russian Federal Space Agency, Energomash has committed to supplying Orbital Sciences with 60 engines. "Currently, there is a concrete contract for 20 engines, which we have already begun making, as the first two will have to be delivered in June 2015," said the source.
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