The Senate this week is debating whether to ban use of Russian rocket engines on U.S. government space launches. That might make sense when better domestic propulsion options are available, but doing it anytime soon could actually hurt the U.S. in several ways. First, it would force the Pentagon to use much pricier Delta launch vehicles to loft satellites into orbits SpaceX can’t reach, because the cheaper Atlas vehicle using Russian engines would be unavailable. Second, access to space will be endangered because there will be no backup for putting heavy satellites in high orbits if Delta is grounded. Third, competition in government launches will be eliminated because Delta isn’t price-competitive with SpaceX for lesser payloads and SpaceX can’t loft the biggest satellites. Finally, Russia might turn to customers in Iran or North Korea if it can’t sell its propulsion technology here. I have written a commentary for Forbes.
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