SpaceX Goes to Court, Wins Injunction to Bid on DOD Launches - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

SpaceX Goes to Court, Wins Injunction to Bid on DOD Launches

UPDATE:  A federal court ruled in SpaceX's favor late Wednesday, granting an injunction prohibiting Lockheed Martin and Boeing from buying Russian made rockets in a Department of Defense contract that was not put out for bids.  That's according to a Washington Post report.

Judge Susan G. Braden’s ruling came after SpaceX, a California-based rocket company with a testing facility in McGregor, Texas, sued the federal government Monday, protesting the Air Force’s award of the lucrative space contract.

SpaceX in the lawsuit criticized United Launch Alliance (ULA) for using Russian engines in some of its rockets, which SpaceX founder Elon Musk said might be a violation of U.S. sanctions and was unseemly at a time when Russia “is the process of invading Ukraine.”

Musk alleged that the deal would benefit Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister who heads the Russian defense industry and is named by the U.S. government in the sanctions.

In reaction to the sanctions, 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.”

The judge's ruling prohibits ULA from making payments to the Russian engine manufacturer.

The contract, for 36 rockets to launch defense payloads, such as satellites, was awarded to ULA — a 50-50 venture of Boeing and Bethesda-based Lockheed — on a sole-source basis in December. By 2030, the Pentagon expects to spend almost $70 billion on the program.

Musk said SpaceX could shave as much as 75 percent off that cost, and in the last week he's gotten support from some members of Congress, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who called for increased competition in the awarding of large multiyear contracts.

“This is not SpaceX protesting and saying these launches should be awarded to us,” Musk said at the news conference. “We’re just saying these launches should be competed. If we compete and lose, that’s fine. But why would they not even compete it? That doesn’t make sense.”

The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) contract with the United Launch Alliance (ULA) guarantees the purchase of 36 rocket cores to be used in national security launches at a cost to taxpayers of approximately $400 million per launch. 

SpaceX says that's four times what it would charge for the same project, and the contract was granted to ULA on a sole-source basis without any competition from other launch providers.   The company with a testing facility in McGregor, outside of Waco, is seeking the right to compete for some of the same launches.

“This exclusive deal unnecessarily costs U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars and defers meaningful free competition for years to come,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX's CEO. “We are simply asking that SpaceX and any other qualified domestic launch providers be allowed to compete in the EELV program for any and all missions that they could launch.”

EELV is the fourth largest procurement program in the entire Department of Defense (DOD) budget, and it has been plagued by significant and sustained cost breaches. DOD officials have reported that EELV has exceeded its original estimated per unit cost by 58.4%. 

Additionally, ULA’s launch vehicle, the Atlas V, uses engines produced only in the Russian Federation.

“In light of international events, this seems like the wrong time to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kremlin,” Musk said. “Yet, this is what the Air Force’s arrangement with ULA does, despite the fact that there are domestic alternatives available that do not rely on components from countries that pose a national security risk.”

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