Federal Judge Freezes Lockheed-Boeing Plan to Buy Russian Rocket Engines for U.S. Air Force Satellites

Monday, May 05, 2014
Dmitry Rogozin

U.S. sanctions against Russia have now affected the U.S. Air Force’s need for Russian-made rocket engines.

 

A joint venture known as United Launch Alliance (ULA) between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, two of the nation’s largest defense contractors, has long purchased Russian RD-180 engines for American Atlas V rockets, which the Air Force uses to put military satellites into orbit.

 

ULA was awarded a $70 billion deal only last December to provide 36 of the rockets.

But Space Exploration Technologies Corp., aka SpaceX, the creation of billionaire Elon Musk, objected to the sole-source deal for ULA, and went to court Monday to stop it.

That led to a federal claims judge, Susan G. Braden, issuing an injunction this week that temporarily blocks the sale of the Russian engines to ULA. Braden cited the sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia taking over Crimea as reason for issuing the court order. She also asked the departments of Treasury, Commerce and State to certify that the engine sales don’t violate the sanctions.

 

One of the individuals targeted by the sanctions is Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who heads the country’s defense and space industries.

 

As for SpaceX, it hopes Braden will halt any ULA launches beyond 2016 so it can compete for future launches with its own rockets.

 

ULA isn’t the only American enterprise relying on Russian-made rockets these days.

With the end of the shuttle program three years ago, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) now depends on U.S. astronauts to be launched from Russian facilities aboard Soyuz rockets to get to the space station. That could prove problematic. After the sanctions were announced, Rogozin tweeted: “After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest the U.S. delivers its astronauts to the ISS [International Space Station] with a trampoline.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff

 

To Learn More:

Musk’s SpaceX Wins Order Temporarily Blocking Rocket Plan (by Andrew Zajac and Andrea Tan, Bloomberg)

Replacing Russian Rocket Engine Isn’t Easy, Pentagon Says (by Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Granted Injunction in Rocket Launch Suit against Government (by Christian Davenport, Washington Post)

Hillary Clinton Makes Money for Boeing (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

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