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RD-180 (РД-180)
RD-180 test firing.jpg
RD-180 test firing, November 4, 1998 at the Marshall Space Flight Center Advanced Engine Test Facility.
Country of origin Russia
Date 1999
Designer NPO Energomash
Manufacturer NPO Energomash
Application Booster
Predecessor RD-170
Status In use
Liquid-fuel engine
Propellant LOX / RP-1
Cycle Staged combustion
Chamber 2
Nozzle ratio 36.87
Thrust (vac.) 933,400 lbf (4.15 MN)
Thrust (SL) 860,568 lbf (3.83 MN)
Thrust-to-weight ratio 78.44
Chamber pressure 3,868 psia (26.7 MPa, 266.8 bar)
Isp (vac.) 338 s (3.31 km/s)
Isp (SL) 311 s (3.05 km/s)
Burn time 270 Sec
Length 140 in (3.56 m)
Diameter 124 in (3.15 m)
Dry weight 12,081 lb (5,480 kg)

The RD-180 (РД-180, Ракетный Двигатель-180, Rocket Engine-180) is a Russian-designed-and-built rocket engine. It features a dual-combustion chamber, dual-nozzle design and is fueled by a kerosene/liquid oxygen mixture. Currently RD-180 engines are used for the first-stage of the US Atlas V launch vehicle.

The RD-180 is derived from the RD-170/RD-171 line of rocket engines, which were used in the Soviet Energia launch vehicle, and are still in use in the Ukrainian/Russian Zenit launch vehicles.

Design and specifications[edit]

The combustion chambers of the RD-180 share a single turbopump unit, much like in its predecessor, the four-chambered RD-170. The RD-180 is fueled by a kerosene/liquid oxygen mixture and uses an extremely efficient, high-pressure staged combustion cycle. The engine runs with an oxidizer to fuel ratio of 2.72 and employs an oxygen-rich preburner, unlike typical fuel-rich US designs. The thermodynamics of the cycle allow an oxygen-rich preburner to give a greater power-to-weight ratio, but with the drawback that high pressure, high temperature gaseous oxygen must be transported throughout the engine. The movements of the engine nozzles are controlled by four hydraulic actuators. The engine can be throttled from 40% to 100% of rated thrust.


During the early 1990s General Dynamics Space Systems Division (later purchased by Lockheed Martin) acquired the rights to use the RD-180 in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) and the Atlas program. As these programs were conceived to support United States government launches as well as commercial launches, it was also arranged for the RD-180 to be co-produced by Pratt & Whitney. However all production to date has taken place in Russia. The engine is currently sold by a joint venture between the Russian developer and producer of the engine NPO Energomash and Pratt & Whitney, called RD AMROSS.

The RD-180 was first deployed on the Atlas IIA-R vehicle, which was the Atlas IIA vehicle with the Russian (hence the R) engine replacing the previous main engine. This vehicle was later renamed the Atlas III. An additional development program was undertaken to certify the engine for use on the modular Common Core Booster primary stage of the Atlas V rocket.

Prospective uses[edit]

RD-180 was planned to be used with a new family of Rus-M Russian space launch vehicles, proposed by Roskosmos contractors,[1][2] but the program was canceled by the Russian Space Agency in October 2011.[3]

Jerry Grey, a consultant to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Universities Space Research Association and a former professor of aerospace engineering at Princeton University, suggested using the RD-180 for a prospective NASA heavy-lift launch vehicle. For those who might be concerned about too much reliance on Russia, he pointed out that RD Amross was "very close to producing a U.S.-built version of the RD-180, and with some infusion of NASA funding could be manufacturing that engine (and perhaps even a 1,700,000 lbf or 7.6 MN thrust equivalent of the RD-170) in a few years."[4]

Despite the availability of necessary documentation and legal rights for producing RD-180 in the United States, NASA is considering development of an indigenous core stage engine that would be "capable of generating high levels of thrust approximately equal to or exceeding the performance of the Russian-built engine." NASA considered in 2010 to produce a fully operational engine by 2020 or sooner, depending an partnership with the U.S. Defense Department.[5]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]