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Judge Lifts Injunction Against AF or ULA Paying Russia for RD-180 Engines

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 08-May-2014
Updated: 08-May-2014 06:32 PM

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims today lifted the preliminary injunction it imposed last week on the Air Force or United Launch Alliance (ULA) making payments to Russia for the RD-180 engines that power ULA's Atlas V rocket.

Judge Susan Braden issued an order dissolving the injunction this afternoon.   Her April 30, 2014 order enjoining payments was in response to a lawsuit filed by SpaceX against the government because it awarded a contract to ULA for 36 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) cores in December 2013 on a sole source basis rather than competing it.  The lawsuit is primarily about that issue, but as part of its filing SpaceX discussed the fact that ULA's Atlas V uses Russian RD-180 engines and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin is in charge of Russia's space sector and is on the list of sanctioned individuals because of Russia's actions in Ukraine.  Rogozin was one of the first Russians sanctioned under Executive Order 13661 in March.

Braden thereupon enjoined payments to the Russian company NPO Energomash, which builds the engines, until the court received the opinions of the Departments of the Treasury, State and Commerce that payments would not violate the sanctions against Rogozin who ostensibly has some control over all Russian government space agencies and companies and therefore the payments .  The three departments provided their opinions to the court on Tuesday.  They collectively concluded that, to the best of their knowledge, payments to NPO Energomash would not violate the sanctions and requested the injunction be lifted.

Today, after a hearing and an updated letter from the government (Exhibit D of today's order), Judge Braden dissolved the injunction.  The order also requires the government to inform the court "immediately" if it receives "any indication" that payments to NPO Energomash will, in fact, directly or indirectly contravene the sanctions.

ULA issued a press release stating that its purchases from NPO Energomash comply with the sanctions and continued the war of words it is having with SpaceX over this issue and the lawsuit in general.  No press release from SpaceX has been posted on its website as of now.  The companies have been exchanging barbs since the injunction was issued last week primarily through filings with the court.

The case is still in front of the court.  As noted, it is primarily focused on the issue of whether the December 2013 contract should have been awarded on a sole source basis or competed.


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