LOCKHEED MARTIN Astronautics has selected the Pratt & Whitney/NPO Energomash RD-180 liquid-rocket engine to power the upgraded Atlas IIAR satellite launcher. A firm contract is contingent on receiving Russian Government export licences.

The RD-180, which has been under development since March 1994, was selected over the Russian Samara-NK Engines NK-33, proposed by Aerojet, after Rocketdyne withdrew its offer of an improved MA-5A engine. P&W says that the RD-180 will be ready to support a first launch in December 1998.

The RD-180 will also be the baseline engine for Lockheed Martin's entry for the US Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle. The sale has been opposed by the Russian State Committee for Defence Industries, which says that the use of the cryogenic engine would "...cause irreparable harm to Russian defence capabilities". The Committee says that use of the rival Russian engine, the NK-33, would be more profitable to Russia.

Source: Flight International