Judge Lifts Temporary Ban of ULA Plan to Buy Rockets from Russia
By Julie S | May 09, 2014 02:18 PM EDT
A judge has lifted the ban on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) plan to buy rockets from Russia. The ruling, which went in favor of Boeing-Lockheed, stated that the deal does not go against sanctions arising from Russia's conflict with Ukraine.
U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Susan Braden lifted the temporary order on the Boeing Co. – Lockheed Martin Corp. venture, after the issue surfaced tying it to rock-engine maker NPO Energomash and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia's defense and space industries and is subject to U.S. sanctions. The venture launches U.S. military satellites.
SpaceX filed a lawsuit against the U.S Air Force to protest their contract with two arms makers that allegedly blocked other companies from competing to lead over 36 rocket launches in April 28. The suit argued that purchasing Russian engines for the rockets could be a violation of U.S sanctions on the matter and might be regarded as controversial, since Russia is in the process of waging war against Ukraine.
An injunction was released by the U.S Court of Federal Claims to impede the ULA purchase of Russian-made rocket engines for their space flights. Russia has responded to this injunction. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry 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."
As a result, Braden filed an injunction on April 30, seeking the opinions of the Treasury, State, and Commerce departments on the rocket purchases. The Justice Department and Boeing-Lockheed Martin, called the ULA, sought to have the ban lifted, and on May 6, the Treasury's sanctions unit came back stating that the transactions with NPO Energomash "currently do not directly or indirectly contravene" sanctions against Rogozin.
Braden acknowledged the input from all three departments and made her ruling. ULA Spokeswoman Jessica Rye told Businessweek in an email that the information from the three departments makes it clear that the plan "complies with the sanctions against Russia."
However, SpaceX begs to differ and is pushing for the ban to stay. In a court filing, the company declared that the Treasury's letter "only states that 'as of today' they have not yet done so." In its complaint, it also said it is looking for a way to prevent a ULA monopoly on military satellite launches.