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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Energomash Wins Contract for U.S. Atlas Engines

In the first such partnership of its kind, Russian state-owned aerospace giant Energomash, teaming up with U.S. engine-maker Pratt & Whitney, won a tender to supply rocket engines for an upgrading of America's U.S. Atlas satellite launcher, project officials announced Thursday.

Energomash's liquid-fueled RD-180 beat out a competing bid offered by the Samara aerospace company NK Engines in partnership with the California-based Aerojet firm. Officials did not specify the value of the deal, but experts estimate it is worth $100 million in its initial stages and could eventually be worth up to $2 billion.

"This choice shows the confidence in the RD-180 and in our company," Boris Katorgin, general director of Energomash, said in an interview.

The engine, a modified version of the 1970s model RD-170 -- the world's most powerful liquid-fueled rocket -- will be jointly developed in Russia, then licensed for production by Pratt & Whitney in the United States. Energomash will earn royalties for every engine produced in the United States.

"RD-180 provides design margin to support all of our customers and this partnership between Pratt & Whitney and NPO Energomash meets all of the program and government requirements for cost efficiency and supply by American companies," James McAnally, president of Lockheed Martin Astronautics, said in a press release.

Lockheed Martin is the primary contractor for modernizing the Atlas space vehicle, a mainstay of the U.S. satellite-launching fleet.

But one aerospace expert said the fate of the Energomash project is still uncertain, given opposition to the sale by some parts of the Russian government on national-security grounds.

The Russian Space Agency and the Defense Ministry supported Energomash, whereas Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin spoke in favor of the competing NK-33 engine, said the expert, who asked not to be identified. He also said Viktor Glukhikh, head of the State Committee on Defense Industries, has recently opposed the sale of the RD-180 to Americans because of the high level of technology transfer.