A massive "must-pass" omnibus spending bill released by Congress on Wednesday would lift the current ban on Russian rocket engines being used to launch US military payloads into space.
The new bill mandates that competition be open to "all certified providers" of military space launch vehicles "regardless of the country of origin of the rocket engine that will be used on its launch vehicle, in order to ensure robust competition and continued assured access to space."
The legislation also opens the door for the United Launch Alliance (ULA) to re-enter the Pentagon's request for bids to manufacture the rockets that send US satellites into orbit.
The ULA is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin and has long been the primary contractor for launching US Defense Department payloads, including national security satellites. The firm relies on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine, which was banned in the fiscal 2015 defense budget.