Judge Enjoins AF and ULA From Buying RD-180 Engines

Judge Enjoins AF and ULA From Buying RD-180 Engines

A U.S. Federal Claims Court judge issued an injunction last night that prohibits the Air Force or United Launch Alliance (ULA) from purchasing RD-180 engines from Russia until the Department of Treasury, Department of Commerce and Department of State determine that it does not violate U.S. sanctions.  The ruling was made in response to a lawsuit filed eariier this week by SpaceX over the Air Force’s block buy of rockets from ULA although this was not one of the remedies SpaceX sought.

The three page injunction issued by Judge Susan Braden on April 30 cites Executive Order 13661, which places Russian Deputy Prime MInister Dmitry Rogozin on the list of individuals sanctioned because of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and April 28 restrictions on exports announced by the Departments of State and Commerce.  Rogozin is in charge of Russia’s space sector.

Consequently, Judge Braden ruled that the public interest and national defense and security concerns that underlie E.O. 13661 “warrant issuance of a preliminary injunction” that prohibits the Air Force and ULA from making “any purchase from or payment of money to NPO Energomash or any entity … that is subject to control of Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin” until the court receives an opinion from the Departments of Treasury, State and Commerce that they do not “directly or indirectly contravene” the Executive Order.  She added that the injunction does not apply to purchase orders already placed or money already paid to NPO Energomash.

SpaceX agreed with the action:   “The U.S. Court of Federal Claims took a prudent step toward understanding whether United Launch Alliance’s current sole-source contract violates U.S. sanctions by sending taxpayer money to Russia for the RD-180 engine. That question – as well as others relating to the risks posed by dependence on Russian-made engines and the need to open competition for the Air Force space launch program – are timely and appropriate.”

SpaceX filed suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims on Monday seeking an injunction against the Air Force proceeding with its block buy of 36 launch vehicle cores from the ULA because the contract was awarded on a sole source basis rather than competed.

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