While SpaceX decided not to post its official court filing on its “Freedom To Launch” website, as originally promised, the document was available through the court’s filing system by early Tuesday. A copy of the 36-page document is available here.
The document reiterates many of the points made by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Friday when he announced the suit, from concerns about being locked out of competing for EELV contracts to concerns about reliance on United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) Atlas V rocket and its Russian-made RD-180 engine. “The ULA monopoly has led to murky contracts, reliance on Russian suppliers, and spiraling costs,” the document states.
It does, though, offer some additional details and clarifications, particularly regarding the timing of SpaceX’s action. While Musk said Friday that SpaceX learned of the block buy contract only last month, the filing acknowledges that the block buy contract was executed back in December. Instead, the filing says several recent events triggered the suit, including what it claims is a move by the Air Force not to compete future “single core” EELV launches because of the block buy. “[O]n April 17,2014, SpaceX learned that the Air Force decided not to compete future Single Core Launch Vehicles that SpaceX is qualified to launch because the Air Force has an ‘existing 36-core contractual requirement’ with ULA,” the filing states.
SpaceX believes that its Falcon 9 rocket, which is now eligible to compete for EELV launches since it has delivered the data for all three of its certification launches (although is not yet formally certified), could launch many of the payloads that would be launched under the block buy contract. “But for the Air Force’s improper actions set forth in this Complaint, SpaceX would compete for and win many, if not all, full and open competitions for Single Core Launch Vehicles, including those that the Air Force plans to order in FY20l5,” it states.
SpaceX acknowledges that it doesn’t know what those payloads are, but argues that since the Air Force hasn’t disclosed what missions will launch on the vehicles purchased under the block buy, the service can’t block SpaceX from competing for them. It notes that the Air Force has set aside seven launches in fiscal years 2017–19 for SpaceX, but has not formally explained why SpaceX is not qualified for the estimated 15 other EELV single-core launches planned during that period. “The fact is SpaceX is qualified to compete today for all of the Single Core Launch Vehicle missions scheduled to launch in FY2017-FY2019,” it claims (emphasis in original).
In the filing, SpaceX asks the Court of Federal Claims to find that the Air Force’s sole-source award to ULA violates federal mandates for “full and open competition,” and that it “permanently enjoin the Air Force from procuring any Single Core Launch Vehicles on a sole source basis without first releasing to the public a valid justification and approval determination for the specific launch vehicle to be ordered.” The Air Force, it argues “would suffer no hardship – indeed it would benefit – by promoting competition” while SpaceX would suffer “great hardship” if it is unable to compete for those launches.