According to a recent finding from Fox News, a top Russian official, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who was recently sanctioned by the United States Government over recent events in Ukraine, is part of a contracted firm who produces products for the U.S. Air Force. The company United Launch Alliance (ULA) has been providing the Pentagon with materials to construct secret spy satellites. Some worry that this connection could hold the contract hostage to the whims of Rogozin and Russia, essentially preventing production of the crucial satellite parts. ULA has said that the US Government typically buys the product two to three years in advance, which means the Pentagon may not need the materials anytime soon.
A top Russian official sanctioned by President Obama in the wake of the Ukraine crisis is playing a key role in the Pentagon’s space program, and thereby continuing to benefit from a lucrative no-bid contract that the Department of Defense awarded earlier this year, Fox News has confirmed.
Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation, was among the senior Kremlin officials targeted by the White House’s sanctions announcement of March 17. Included in Rogozin’s broad portfolio of duties, by virtue of a special order from Russian President Vladimir Putin issued two years ago, is oversight of the Russian space sector, in which capacity Rogozin supplies sophisticated hardware used in the Pentagon’s launches of satellites into space.
This past January, the U.S. Air Force awarded a “blockbuster” sole-source contract to a private-sector firm called United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, for the purchase of 36 of the rockets, or “booster cores,” that the Pentagon uses in its Delta IV and Atlas V space-launch systems. The contract was the most recent in a series that the Air Force has recently finalized with ULA, collectively valued at $2.5 billion.
ULA, however, does not manufacture the engines used in the Atlas V system; for that, the Boeing-Lockheed consortium turns to NPO Energomash, a majority Kremlin-owned company directly overseen by Rogozin. Energomash’s engines, specifically the RD-180 model, are fueled by kerosene and liquid oxygen, and fetch an estimated $15 to $20 million apiece.
“Even though Rogozin is on the sanction list,” a source with ties to the aerospace industry told Fox News in an email, “the U.S. continues to engage his space empire for Russian engines to put highly sensitive Pentagon satellites in space.”
Rogozin was one of 11 senior Russian officials named in President Obama’s first round of Ukraine-related sanctions. Last year the longtime Putin ally, a former Russian ambassador to NATO, announced an ambitious plan to consolidate Russia’s sprawling and under-performing space sector into a single state-controlled corporation.
Mark Jacobson, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund and former NATO official, agreed that the Pentagon’s contracting process for its space launches is “a problem over the medium to long term” for U.S. national security.
“The United States is going to have to find a way to diversify its ability to put heavy payloads into space,” he told Fox News.
“The single point of failure in this case is that we assume that the Russians will always provide these engines. What happens if they stop?”
Washington’s use of sanctions, Jacobson argued, is not only potentially undermined by the Pentagon’s continued steerage of business to the Rogozin empire, but in fact may serve to accelerate American dependence on the sanctioned official.