• ITVI.USA
    15,913.180
    -35.240
    -0.2%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.793
    -0.005
    -0.2%
  • OTRI.USA
    22.300
    0.290
    1.3%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,900.990
    -35.610
    -0.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.950
    -0.570
    -16.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.610
    0.650
    22%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.370
    -0.240
    -14.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.550
    0.210
    6.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.320
    0.220
    10.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.110
    0.250
    6.5%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    0.000
    0%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,913.180
    -35.240
    -0.2%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.793
    -0.005
    -0.2%
  • OTRI.USA
    22.300
    0.290
    1.3%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,900.990
    -35.610
    -0.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.950
    -0.570
    -16.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.610
    0.650
    22%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.370
    -0.240
    -14.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.550
    0.210
    6.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.320
    0.220
    10.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.110
    0.250
    6.5%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    0.000
    0%
Air CargoAmerican ShipperNews

Russian air transport company gets US rockets to launch site

The domestic flights require DOT exemptions

Volga-Dnepr Airlines, a Russian all-cargo carrier, has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to authorize a domestic U.S. flight using its gigantic AN-124-100 cargo plane to transport an Atlas V rocket booster tank for a space mission.

According to the application filed this week, the 65,000-pound payload is too large to be accommodated by any U.S. commercial aircraft.

Volga-Dnepr has authority to operate between overseas locations and the U.S., but under U.S. aviation law foreign carriers are not permitted to make commercial flights within the country. 

The Russian airline said its services are urgently needed to deliver the Atlas V fuel tank from Huntsville, Alabama, to NASA’s Shuttle Landing Facility in Titusville, Florida, or Cape Canaveral, Florida, in mid-May.

United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing Co., manufactures the booster in Huntsville. It is on an urgent schedule to complete fabrication and launch schedules and due to the extreme size, fragility and high value of the rocket component it cannot be transported using surface transportation, according to the filing.

The Antonov 124-100 is one of the world’s largest civil cargo aircraft. With two loading entrances – front and back – it is capable of carrying outsize loads weighing up to 120 tons. 

The DOT may authorize a foreign air carrier to operate domestically if it determines the exemption is in the public interest, that U.S. certified carriers can’t meet emergency circumstances and that all possible efforts have been made to find a U.S. carrier to do the job.

The DOT previously granted similar exemptions to Volga-Dnepr to transport rocket components for United Launch Alliance.

The Atlas V is an expendable launch vehicle used to place satellites in orbit. Customers include NASA, the U.S. military, weather agencies, and commercial customers. The Atlas V is also being used to power Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, which is being developed to fly astronauts to the International Space Station.

Eric Kulisch, Air Cargo Editor

Eric is the Air Cargo Market Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at ekulisch@freightwaves.com

One Comment

  1. Interesting. Why would such a critical program be designed to depend on a Russian aircraft? Single point of failure and what about national security? Maybe companies simply did not have that foresight in the past, but as Covid-19 now demonstrates to the world we have to think and plan differently. I don’t now the specifics around the booster tank, but I find it hard to believe that we don’t have the capabilities and resources to transport it safely by road or why the Boeing Dreamlifter or Airbus Beluga aircraft’s could not be used for movement by air if this is indeed the only option. As I said, interesting and also intriguing.

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