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Government The Courts Politics

SpaceX Wins Injunction Against Russian Rocket Purchases 166

Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Reuters is reporting that Space Exploration Technologies, aka SpaceX, has won a Federal Claims Court temporary injunction against the purchase by United Launch Alliance of Russian-made rocket boosters, intended for use by the United States Air Force. In her ruling Judge Susan Braden prohibited ULA and the USAF, 'from making any purchases from or payment of money to [Russian firm] NPO Energomash.' United Launch Alliance is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin."
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SpaceX Wins Injunction Against Russian Rocket Purchases

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  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @12:41PM (#46890267)

    Unable? This is about maximizing profit, not ability. They looked into domestic production of this engine and decided to save the billion or so dollars. Looking at this court decision, they may have made the right decision if they get stuck competing with a lower-cost provider of launches.

    I'm not sure that SpaceX will prevail in the short term. Ostensibly, the reason the military is willing to pay the Alliance so much is they can't insure their satellites, so they need a very reliable launch vehicle instead. Perhaps SpaceX will prove to be very reliable, but they aren't there yet.

  • by hublan ( 197388 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @12:51PM (#46890395) Homepage

    SpaceX are fantastic, world-class innovators, but lobbying the government to tilt the playing field their way smacks of rent-seeking.

    You're confused. It's called levelling the playing field. What the USAF did was sign a no-bid contract with the Boeing/Lockheed to purchase Russian rocket engines. A huge no-no in the public sphere, if not illegal. The only way to get them to reverse on that was to go to court.

  • Re:Why (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01, 2014 @12:53PM (#46890415)

    Aerospace is a decades old pile of pork and graft. Contracts are awarded to whoever can bribe congress critters the best.

    SpaceX can make some noise here. There's probably a lot of cold war era laws regarding requirements for defense projects to be US manufactured.

    I mean really. Cheap imported Russian rockets resold by a cold war era aerospace dinosaur vs an all-American entrepreneur company?

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @01:22PM (#46890815)

    This case turns the usual defense procurement bugaboo on its head.

    Not really.
    This decision won't stand. The DOD will not let some meddlesome judge stand in the way of a security need, and friendlier judges will quickly overturn it. (It was a temporary injunction anyway).

    Look people, this is just to get their (Air Force's) attention. It isn't going to be a permanent thing, by simply making headlines it has served its purpose. (Note that the Russian's will probably block the sale anyway soon).

    DOD will promise to revise the bidding, they may also tell Pratt and Whitney to start manufacturing these engines in western countries (P&W bought the license to do this a long time ago, but it was never economic to do so in the past). This isn't particularly difficult tech to build when all of the plans and specs are already in US hands due to long existing licensing deals.

    But mostly, the purpose was an attention grab, to demonstrate how stupid it is to encourage US companies to develop lift capabilities and then turn around and buy Russian made engines on a sole source contract.

  • steal the designs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01, 2014 @01:59PM (#46891367)

    If it was just about the designs would could steal any number of them from ourselves (50 years of rocket engine designs to choose from). The issue appears to be the ability to manufacture, which we seem to have lost and would require time & money to restart. All that is except for SpaceX, they appear to build their engine in house. The Merlin engine is a bit less efficient than the RD-180 but its the most efficient hydrocarbon engine developed in the US.

  • Re:Why (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ChinggisK ( 1133009 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @02:22PM (#46891695)

    However, Boeing has pulled the Delta IV from the market, so there will be a limited number of these launched in the future.

    Got a citation on that? Last I heard there was no definitive plan to end the Delta IV program, in fact it would be insane considering Atlas' precarious engine situation.

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