U.S. Senator Bill Nelson

Serving Florida

U.S. moves to break from Russian rocket dependence

May 22, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A key Senate panel today approved a plan that aims to build a new rocket engine in five years so the U.S. doesn’t continue relying on Russia for access to space. 
 
The Senate Armed Services Committee in a bipartisan fashion approved the plan as part of the defense budget for the next fiscal year, virtually ensuring passage by the full Senate when it comes to the floor for a vote.  Meantime, the House Armed Service Committee included a similarly aimed measure in its version of the defense bill they passed earlier this month.
 
The Senate’s rocket initiative came in the form of an amendment offered by a senior member of the Armed Services Committee and leader on space issues, Florida’s Sen. Bill Nelson.
 
“Mr. Putin’s Russia is giving us some problems,” Nelson said.  “So we put $100 million in the defense bill to develop a state-of-the-art rocket engine to make sure that we have assured access to space for our astronauts as well as our military space payloads.” 
 
As the debate over rocket engines continues, the Pentagon released a new consultant’s report on what the U.S. should do to break its dependence on Russia, how much it would cost and when we should begin.  
 
We should begin now, Nelson said.
 
The nation’s military depends on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine to lift heavy satellites into earth’s orbit. 
 
Just recently, a high-ranking Russian official threatened to end sales of the rocket engine for U.S. military use.