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WASHINGTON, Feb 25 (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force may miss a 2019 deadline for developing a U.S. engine to replace the Russian-built RD-180 motors that now power some rockets used to launch military satellites into space, Air Force Secretary Deborah James said Wednesday.
James told the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee that the 2019 congressional deadline was "pretty aggressive" given that it would likely take six to seven years to develop an alternate U.S.-built engine, plus another year to integrate the engine with rockets.
"The 2019 date is pretty aggressive and I'm not sure that we can make it," James said, urging Congress to clarify the intention of a law passed last year that requires the Air Force to stop using the RD-180 engines.
Those engines now power the Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal)