ULA Responds Sharply to SpaceX Lawsuit, Court's Action
United Launch Alliance (ULA) issued a strongly worded statement today about SpaceX's lawsuit and a judge's ruling yesterday enjoining the government or ULA from buying RD-180 engines from Russia until the court is notified by three government departments that such purchases would not violate U.S. sanctions against Russia.
U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Susan Braden issued the injunction in response to a lawsuit filed Monday by SpaceX protesting a December 2013 contract award from the Air Force to ULA for 36 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) cores. ULA, jointly owned by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, uses two EELV rockets -- Atlas V and Delta IV -- to launch just about all of the nation's national security satellites as well as spacecraft for NASA. The Atlas V is powered by Russian RD-180 engines.
The injunction prohibits the Air Force or ULA from making payments to Russia's NPO Energomash, which builds the engines, until the Departments of the Treasury, Commerce and State inform the court that the payments do not violate sanctions imposed by the United States against Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees Russia's space sector.
SpaceX is challenging the award of the EELV contract on a sole source basis instead of allowing competition. The lawsuit does not seek an injunction against the purchase of RD-180 engines, but discussed them in the lawsuit and issued a statement today praising the judge's decision.
In response, ULA said it would work with the Department of Justice to resolve the injunction "expeditiously." It called SpaceX's actions "opportunistic" and an attempt to "circumvent the requirements imposed" on others. It also noted that NASA and "numerous other companies" do business with NPO Energomash, other Russian companies and the Russian government. The full text of the ULA statement is:
“ULA is deeply concerned with this ruling and we will work closely with the Department of Justice to resolve the injunction expeditiously. In the meantime, ULA will continue to demonstrate our commitment to our National Security on the launch pad by assuring the safe delivery of the missions we are honored to support.
“SpaceX’s attempt to disrupt a national security launch contract so long after the award ignores the potential implications to our National Security and our nation's ability to put Americans on board the International Space Station. Just like ULA, NASA and numerous other companies lawfully conduct business with the same Russian company, other Russia state-owned industries, and Russian Federation agencies. This opportunistic action by SpaceX appears to be an attempt to circumvent the requirements imposed on those who seek to meet the challenging launch needs of the nation and to avoid having to follow the rules, regulations and standards expected of a company entrusted to support our nation's most sensitive missions.”
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