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Exclusive – US should spurn Russia rocket engines despite SpaceX failure: McCain

An unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explodes after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, June 28, 2015.

Reuters/Mike Brown

WASHINGTON The failure of a SpaceX rocket over Florida on Sunday should not lead U.S. officials back to Russia to look for a rocket engine that can get military equipment into space, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain said on Monday.

“This mishap in no way diminishes the urgency of ridding ourselves of the Russian RD-180 rocket engine,” McCain said in a statement.

The United States has placed tough new constraints on new deliveries of the Russian-made engines for U.S. military projects, such as launching satellites into space. The move came last year after pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine were suspected of getting aid from Moscow.

Meanwhile, SpaceX has its sights on eventually winning U.S. military contracts to lift military hardware into space.

Speaking the day after a unmanned SpaceX rocket exploded after liftoff, McCain said, “I am confident that this minor setback will in no way impede the future success of SpaceX and its ability to support U.S. national security space missions.”

The Republican chairman added that if the “competitive environment were placed at risk in coming years,” Congress could then revisit the issue “in order to mitigate any national security impacts.”

The explosion in Florida on Sunday destroyed a cargo ship bound for the International Space Station in the latest in a string of mishaps in supplying the orbiting outpost.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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