NASA engineers successfully tested a Russian-built rocket engine on November 4, 1998 at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) Advanced Engine Test Facility, which had been used for testing the Saturn V F-1 engines and Space Shuttle Main engines. The MSFC was under a Space Act Agreement with Lockheed Martin Astronautics of Denver to provide a series of test firings of the Atlas III propulsion system configured with the Russian-designed RD-180 engine. The tests were designed to measure the performance of the Atlas III propulsion system, which included avionics and propellant tanks and lines, and how these components interacted with the RD-180 engine. The RD-180 is powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen, the same fuel mix used in Saturn rockets. The RD-180, the most powerful rocket engine tested at the MSFC since Saturn rocket tests in the 1960s, generated 860,000 pounds of thrust.
The Russian Federation has delivered 3 RD-181 rocket engines to Orbital Sciences Corporation in the United States. The engines are for use on the Antares rocket.
The research and industrial association NPO Energromash said on its website on Friday, “On December 12, three RD-181 engines were handed over to the US customer,” reported Russian state news agency TASS.
Russia has lost a large percentage of its space launch business to American commercial interests like SpaceX. It is probable that due to Congressional pressure and the continuing problems with Russian-American relations, the purchase of rocket engines in the future will be stopped.
The space industry is a large source of revenue for the Kremlin and the loss of business has been a material budgetary issue.