Russia Bans U.S. Sales of Rocket Engines

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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By Andrey Oustroukh and Doug Cameron

Russia said it plans to ban sales of the space-rocket engine used to launch most U.S. military and intelligence satellites.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Tuesday that he would also turn off the parts of the U.S.-run GPS satellite tracking system that are based in Russia, and proposed ending the country's role in the international space station in 2020, at least four years sooner than the White House has proposed.

Moscow's measures target U.S. reliance on Russian space technology in the wake of a raft of Western sanctions, some of them aimed at Mr. Rogozin, who heads Russia's defense and space sector.

The Pentagon relies on rocket engines imported from Russia's state-owned NPO Energomash OAO for many government satellite launches. The U.S. has enough engines for two years of planned launches, but concerns about the supply chain in the wake of the Ukraine crisis have prompted the Pentagon to begin an urgent review to assess domestic alternatives.

A U.S. judge late last month barred the Pentagon and the United Launch Alliance LLP, a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., from dealing with NPO Energomash. The injunction was lifted last week when U.S. officials said they hadn't yet designated the Russian firm as an entity controlled by Mr. Rogozin.

In what seemed to be a retaliatory move against U.S. restrictions on technology exports to Russia that could be used for defense purposes, Mr. Rogozin said that Moscow will be supplying the rocket engines to the U.S. only if Washington provides proofs that they will be used solely for nonmilitary purposes.

The U.S. is due to launch a new GPS satellite on Thursday, with a domestically-produced engine. The next launch with a Russian-made engine is slated for May 22. United Launch Alliance said it has spares to cover upcoming launches, and the next batch of engine--imported by a joint venture between NPO Energomash and United Technologies Corp.--is due in November.

His push against the U.S. Air Force-run GPS follows Mr. Rogozin said GPS infrastructure in Russia would be temporarily switched off on June 1, and shut down from Sept. 1 if no agreement is reached in a long-running spat over Russia's request to establish stations for its own GLONASS satellite tracking system on U.S. soil. The move has drawn fierce opposition from some U.S. lawmakers. The Air Force didn't respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Rogozin said that Russia may exit the International Space Station mission after 2020 to spend the funds "on more promising space projects." If the Kremlin follows through on that threat, U.S. space efforts would take a big blow.

After a combined investment of more than $100 billion by all its partners, the orbiting international laboratory is central to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's plans to test technology needed for deep-space missions.

When the White House announced its desire earlier this year to keep the station operating through at least 2025, part of the strategy was to head off budget cutbacks in space accounts by European countries. At the time, NASA officials counted Russia as leaning toward extending the use and funding of the space station.

Over the years, Russian officials have talked in general terms about pulling out of what is regarded as the epitome of US-Russian scientific cooperation. Through several earlier crises and diplomatic clashes, American astronauts have continued to train with their Russian counterparts, and missions to the station continued normally.

Mr. Rogozin, who was put on the sanctions list by the West alongside other officials in attempt to punish Moscow for the annexation of Crimea, had previously said that sanctions would only improve the performance of Russia's industries instead of hurting them.

Andy Pasztor and Julian E. Barnes contributed to this article.

Write to Doug Cameron at doug.cameron@wsj.com

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  (END) Dow Jones Newswires
  05-13-142013ET
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