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Russian Rocket Engine Deliveries to the U.S. Evade Sanctions

Published: August 15, 2014 (Issue # 1824)



  • A modified NK-33 engine rocket engine being prepared for installation.
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Despite fears of supply disruptions, the flow of Soviet-built rocket engines to U.S. commercial space launch firm Orbital Sciences, will not be hit by flaring tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine, a representative of the Russian company that owns the engines said Thursday.

The standoff between Russia and the U.S. over the territorial integrity of Ukraine has highlighted just how deeply indebted the U.S. space industry is to certain legacy hardware from the Soviet space program — namely in the form of rocket engines — as Moscow has threatened to forbid any future sales of its engines to the U.S. for military satellite launches.

Orbital Sciences, one of the new commercial rocket builders that have emerged in the last several years, uses Soviet-era NK-33 engines modified in Russia to power to first stage of its Antares rocket.

"There is no rift in the relationship," a spokesman for Kuznetsov, the company that owns and reworks the engines was quoted by ITAR-Tass as saying at an arms expo outside Moscow on Thursday.

"Cooperation on the modification of the NK-33 is mutually beneficial," he explained, adding that despite the high rhetoric, sanctions have yet to impact the space industry beyond hardware used for explicitly military purposes.

Kuznetsov currently is contracted to modify six or seven of the engines for Orbital's upcoming resupply missions to the International Space Station.

Considered to be some of the best engines in the world, the NK-33 is no longer in production. Originally built en masse to power the behemoth N-1 Moon rocket in the 1960s, the program was cancelled and the engines stored in a warehouse until the fall of the Soviet Union. They are now modified and sold exclusively to Orbital Sciences, although some Russian space companies have proposed domestic uses for the remaining stockpile of the engines.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Dec. 25


Make this Christmas a slam-dunk and check out the Zenit St. Petersburg basketball club as they take on Nizhny Novgorod this evening at the Sibur Arena on Krestovsky Ostrov at 8 p.m. Tickets are still available on the club’s website for as little as 200 rubles ($3.30).


Spend your yuletide with Oleg Basilashvili this evening at the Concert Hall at 13/1 Arsenalnaya Naberezhnaya . The legendary film and stage actor will chat with fans, tell stories and share memories of an extensive career that has earned him acclaim throughout Russia.



Friday, Dec. 26


Celebrate Boxing Day by playing various tabletop games during the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening tonight at 5 p.m. Spread the Christmas cheer and goodwill by making other people regret their decision to come and try to match their intellectual prowess against yours.



Saturday, Dec. 27


Indulge cultural and material needs simultaneously during the free classical music concert at the Galeria shopping mall in the heart of the city. Starting at 7 p.m., shoppers and mallwalkers will be able to hear the sounds of Tchaikovsky and Strauss softly lilt over the constant buzz of people bustling from store to store, trying to get their shopping done before New Year.



Sunday, Dec. 28


Prepare for the holidays at the Russian Winter New Year’s Fair on Moskovskaya Ploshchad, which concludes today after starting on Dec. 22. Games and attractions as well as numerous performances will be on offer for those looking to get into the spirit while numerous vendors will help make sure you have something for everyone on your list.



Monday, Dec. 29


Learn how the Swedes observe Christmas, or Jul, in their land of ice and snow, during aSwedish Christmas celebration at the Lermontov Children’s Library this afternoon at 4 p.m. Activities explaining and demonstrating Sweden’s cultural traditions will be accompanied by traditional dishes and sweets.



Tuesday, Dec. 30


Today is the final day of the Christmas Market at the Europolis shopping center on Polyustrovsky prospekt. Indulge your holiday sweet tooth by tucking into some gingerbread men, or attend one of the master classes that will teach you about how to make beautiful, festive decorations for your tree using only your hands.



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