The Global Energy Prize laureate 2012

Boris Katorgin, the designer of rocket engines and the combustion chamber as a “unique work of art”


Rocket engines RD-180 have become a part of history of the Global Energy Prize and the global history as well. In 2016, the US Senate prolonged the use of Russian rocket engines for the launch of Atlas space launch vehicles until 2022, although the legal act adopted earlier provided for the ban for their operation: in the situation of dramatic deterioration in relations between the two states, the use of Russian engines came to be treated as a threat to American national security. Nevertheless, American lawmakers approved the purchase of eighteen Russian rocket engines by the US Department of Defense for up to 2022. The military acknowledged that it’s not the use, but on the contrary – renunciation of RD-180 that might destroy the security of the USA in the near future. Without Russian engines, American launch vehicle will not get off the ground and neither will satellites get to the orbit. Thus, the Americans had to de-facto recognize not just the dependency of their space program on Russian equipment and not just the absence of comparable machinery to that made by Russian and earlier Soviet scientists and designers: what is more important, they agreed with the fact that there exist certain technical inventions and projects which do not disintegrate states in challenging times, but rather unite them. In the beginning of 1996, the paper engine RD-180 by NPO Energomash was announced the winner of the tender for development and delivery of the first-stage engine for America’s Atlas advanced launch vehicles. The contract for development of a kerosene/LOX engine with motor thrust equal to 400 t was signed in the summer of 1996, and already in November 1996 the first firing run of developmental engine was performed. In April 1997, those were followed by the firing run of the operational engine. In 1997–1998, the developers held series of successful firing tests of the engine as a part of the booster stage in the USA. The first launch of Atlas III equipped with RD-180 engine came off in May 2000, and the first Atlas V flight powered by RD-180 engine took place in August 2002. The contract stipulated the batch of no less than 101 RD-180 engines to be used in carrier boosters Atlas III and Atlas V. In 1991 – 2009, NPO Energomash was headed by Boris Katorgin – engineer, researcher and, as it turned out, a truly efficient manager, as RD-180 in those times helped to preserve the company which for many years had been the flagship of the Soviet and global rocket industry. And Dr. Katorgin was actually one of the founders of Energomash.

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