The US wants to build the best rocket engine in the world. Excellent!
How to do it? License the design from the Russians, of course.
The RD-180, already in use on American Atlas III and Atlas V launch vehicles, will be built by a group led by Pratt & Whitney and Lockheed Martin once they get the documents translated. (I’m not making this up.)
The RD-180 is definitely a great design.
The RD-180 is the only LOX/Kerosene oxygen-rich staged combustion engine flying in the U.S. today. It incorporates leading-edge technologies such as a single pre-burner, single-shaft main turbopump unit, spherical no leak flanges and a milled channel wall nozzle for safety and robustness of the rocket engine. It generates nearly one million pounds of thrust.
For reference, the F-1 engines on the 1960s-era Saturn V were LOX/Kerosene burners that generated 1.5 million pounds of thrust. I’m just saying.
As a caption to a photo of the RD-180, SpaceDaily notes
If we can buy Russian engine technology why not buy Russian manned space technology and save the taxpayers a bundle. Oh that’s right NASA only likes to use equipment that costs 10 times more than it needs to.
That isn’t a very effective caption, but it’s a good question and answer session that summarizes so much of what’s gone wrong with the US space program.