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SpaceX court filings offer new details on EELV protest

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.

38 comments to SpaceX court filings offer new details on EELV protest

  • 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).

    How can that be? The F9 1.1 has less payload capacity to GTO than both Delta 4 Medium 5x and Atlas V 55x. It is not clear the F9 upper stage can restart several times. It has only ever flow a simple, single restart profile. SpaceX’s statements are hogwash.

    • Dark Blue Nine

      “The F9 1.1 has less payload capacity to GTO than both Delta 4 Medium 5x and Atlas V 55x.”

      Wrong. The Falcon 9 v1.1 exceeds the total lift capacity of the Atlas V 401, the Atlas V 501, and the Delta IV 9040, which have launched a combined 29 missions to date. Those are payloads that should be competed in the future. To claim otherwise is FUD or willful ignorance.

      “It is not clear the F9 upper stage can restart several times.”

      This would be relevant if every DOD payload required multiple upper stage burns. They don’t.

      • Falcon 9 v1.1 exceeds the total lift capacity of the Atlas V 401, the Atlas V 501

        You don’t count the 5N1 variations of the Atlas V even though government launches routinely use them? What a weasel. There are good reasons Lockmart designed a ‘dial-a-rocket’ with those Aerojet boosters. A quick check of Wikipedia says Atlas V 551 payload to GTO is 8900 kg, for F9 v1.1 4850 kg. Are you too lazy to check even that? There are great gaps in the missions the government requires and those SpaceX can perform. SpaceX gets away with absurd hyperbole. Its time they were called on it.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “You don’t count the 5N1 variations of the Atlas V.. What a weasel.”

          What a dumbass. Reread my post. I included the 501. It delivers over a thousand kilograms less to GTO than the F9.

          Read, comprehend, and think before you post.

          “A quick check of Wikipedia says Atlas V 551 payload to GTO is 8900 kg, for F9 v1.1 4850 kg.”

          Shocking! Why yes, Virginia, there are A5 and DIV variants with payload capacities greater than F9. That’s why SpaceX is only challenging 22 of the 36 block buy cores in court. That’s also why I called out the 29 combined past launches of the Atlas V 401, the Atlas V 501, and the Delta IV 9040 as being eligible for competition going forward.

          Put two and two together before you post.

          “…even though government launches routinely use them?”

          They’re not routinely used. The 401 has launched 21 times. The 551 has launched a whopping four times.

          Try to get something, anything, right, before you post.

          • I should have said N>0. You try to pretend the solids don’t exist. They do! They boost the performance of the Atlas V far beyond the F9. QED. Next victim please…

            • Dark Blue Nine

              “I should have said N>0.”

              You should have at least learned a little elementary school math during your janitorial duties at Hughes.

              “You try to pretend the solids don’t exist.”

              I’ll explain again. Try to follow, if you can.

              EELVs use SRBs in some variants. But many EELV payloads launch without SRBs, specifically 29 since the beginning of the program. F9 exceeds the performance of those EELV variants, specifically the A5 401 and 501 and the D4 9040. Payloads for those launchers should be competed and no longer part of the block buy.

              How many times does this explanation have to be spoon-fed to you? Do I have to burp you, too, you big baby?

              “They boost the performance of the Atlas V far beyond the F9.”

              I’ll explain again. Try to follow, if you can.

              Payloads that require performance above what the F9 can deliver should remain part of the block buy. But many EELV payloads (29 since the beginning of the program) don’t require that performance and should be competed. That’s why SpaceX is challenging only 22 of the 36 cores in the block buy, not all 36.

              How many times does this explanation have to be spoon-fed to you? Do I have to change your diaper, too, you big baby?

              “QED.

              Next victim please…”

              This from the baby who can’t comprehend plain English in another post, who can’t express grade-school math, who can’t accurately compare the performance of different launch vehicle even when he looks them up, and who doesn’t understand simple information even after it’s explained to him multiple times?

              Please…

              • F9 exceeds the performance of those EELV variants, specifically the A5 401 and 501 and the D4 9040.

                But fact remains and you admit that the Atlas V 551 is indeed an Atlas V and thus one may conclude that an Atlas V has a significantly higher payload capacity than a an F9. Do you enjoy pain?

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “But fact remains and you admit that the Atlas V 551 is indeed an Atlas V and thus one may conclude that an Atlas V has a significantly higher payload capacity than a an F9.”

                Oh for the love of… how can you be this dense and still stand upright?

                The 551 is not relevant to the court challenge. SpaceX is not challenging 551 cores. SpaceX is only challenging the cores they can compete against, which is the 401, the 501, and the D5 9040. Those represent 22 of the 36 cores in the block buy. Until F9H is proven, SpaceX can’t challenge or compete against the other 14 cores in the block buy, so they’re not trying.

                Moreover, there have only been four 551 launches in the past 12 years. By comparison, the 401 and 501 have launched a combined 26 times in the past 12 years. The bulk of the money in the block buy is for smaller launches, not bigger ones. SpaceX is going after the bigger pot.

                I’ve explained this to you three times now. What else do you need to understand it? A puppet show?

                Cripes…

      • Reality Bits

        DBN, did you take into account the (~30%-ish) margin Elon is reserving for fly-back in your back-of-the-napkin estimate?

        • Malmesbury

          “DBN, did you take into account the (~30%-ish) margin Elon is reserving for fly-back in your back-of-the-napkin estimate?”

          The full capacity of F9.1 is 16,100Kg to the reference orbit – revealed in a NASA briefing doc a long while back. The same orbit that SpaceX offer payloads of up to 13.150Kg to.

          So they are already holding back around 18% of capability for resuse. This was confirmed by Shotwell (in general terms) IIRC

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “DBN, did you take into account the (~30%-ish) margin…”

          No, I’m not including that margin.

        • amightywind

          I would if Musk could fly back the booster. Musk claims they did a controlled landing down range, although they lost the video (LOL!). There is a *massive* difference between that and flying back up range to a soft landing near the launch pad.

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “… although they lost the video (LOL!)”

            The video is here:

            http://www.spacex.com/news/2014/04/29/first-stage-landing-video

            What an idiot (LOL!)…

            • What is this, a Rorschach test? The video is white noise. I am supposed to take this as evidence of a soft landing in the Atlantic? LOL! They must be smoking dope at SpaceX.

              You didn’t respond to my second point, because you cannot.

              • Vladislaw

                What is the “massive” difference?

              • Vladislav, you don’t consider a ballistic landing in the Atlantic, and a hypersonic pitch over maneuver and flyback 150 miles to be a massive difference? Think!

              • Vladislaw

                I wasn’t a ballistic landing .. it was a powered desent. The engines fired.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “What is this, a Rorschach test?”

                Oh for crissakes. Scroll down and watch the repaired footage.

                Why do you have to be spoon-fed everything? Are you senile?

                “You didn’t respond to my second point, because you cannot.”

                What point? Your confused conflation of ballistic trajectories with powered landings? Another poster already responded to that. I’ll give you a hint: Their response is in the post right above this one.

                You big senile baby. Cripes…

    • Reality Bits

      Comrade Windy said …
      It is not clear the F9 upper stage can restart several times. It has only ever flow a simple, single restart profile.

      Ahem. I have a warm, steaming plate of crow for you to eat. You really ought to do some basic research before you shoot your mouth off, otherwise you come off looking like an even bigger fool. Next time query Google for “falcon 9 multiple restart” …

      SOURCE: http://www.spacex.com/falcon9

      “The second stage engine ignites a few seconds after stage separation, and can be restarted multiple times to place multiple payloads into different orbits. For maximum reliability, the second stage has redundant igniter systems.”

      Also … the May 10th Orbcomm launch requires multiple restarts to place the satellites into different orbits.

      • DCSCA

        Pfft. Quoting SpaceX about SpaceX is like quoting GM about GM. Both firms well noted for not only stretching the truth, but bending it, exaggerating it and occasionally burying it. ‘You really ought to do some basic research before you shoot your mouth off.’ Indeed.

        • Mader Levap

          So you basically claim that SpaceX lies about what it can do – and things that it MUST do to make successful mission. Really? And they sell F9 for missions that they cannot do? Man, this is pretty retarded claim.

      • amightywind

        I don’t want to hear what they can do. That is the typical smoke Musk billows, and a lot of people are getting the contact high. I want to know what they have done. To date that is been 2 single restart missions. Happy May Day to you.

        • Reality Bits

          Comrade Windy,
          So we ought not believe that ULA says either since they are blowing smoke up our backsides (like statements from Gass concerning the effort they have invested in duplicating the RD-180).

          Also, that means that all the huff-n-puff regarding Orion and SLS is smoke and mirrors using your logic since they haven’t “done” anything yet.

          All hail the glorious People’s Republic of SLS/Orion-land!

  • E.P. Grondine

    My guess is that the only grounds SpaceX for protest is in the timing of the buy.

    In any case, I’d like to see some way has to be found to get ULA back into a very good internationally competitive position.

    That is with new US engines, and fly-back first stages.

  • josh

    spacex might very well win this thing. ula will be toast if they lose the block buy.

    • Jim Nobles

      I don’t know if ULA will end up toasted or not but I am curious about the future of the company’s assets. It seems they have the engineering talent to compete technically in this brand new world of commercial space. I wonder if another company could arise from the ashes. One that would be competitive with SpaceX in pricing.

      That’s what we really need, multiple companies in competition with each other. I like SpaceX and Elon is my hero but I’d be more than happy to see them have a savvy competitor in the launch business. Or several.

      Just my $.02.

  • DCSCA

    The document reiterates many of the points made by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Friday when he announced the suit,..” In other words, a new vnture for our entrapreneurial hero– ‘Whine’.. only his ‘boos’ is made with sour grapes.

    Stop chasing government financing and earn street cred: take the risk and fly somebody. We’re wel lnito the 2nd qtr of 2014– Tick-tock, tick-tock.

    • Hiram

      “top chasing government financing and earn street cred: take the risk and fly somebody. We’re wel lnito the 2nd qtr of 2014– Tick-tock, tick-tock.” (Sorry, but I couldn’t parse your other words.)

      Does that also apply to ULA? We wouldn’t want it to be chasing government funding either, would we? And it sure hasn’t flown anyone. Hmmm. Actually, the USAF block buy has absolutely nothing to do with flying somebody. The DoD doesn’t see any value in human space flight, you see. With regard to space, the DoD seems not to give a flying fig about flying people. So much for human space flight and national security.

      You still using those wind-up clocks? Geez. Back in the good old days, with Apollo, they used rotary phones and 4 MHz computers too.

      • Reality Bits

        Don’t forget they were 4-bit and 8-bit computers and core memory. None of those nasty 64-bit computers with Si-based RAM. Grab your slide rule!

        • Umm. They worked. The lunar landing computer used multitasking in precisely the same way as your tablet or desktop computer. You should have more respect for the technology big bang of Apollo, as compared to the stagnation of the ISS era.

          • Hiram

            I have a lot of respect for horses and carriages, and bows and arrows too, compared to the stagnation that has resulted in automobiles and machine guns. They worked, for what we needed them to do. Which sure wasn’t much. If American technological exceptionalism is what drives your space rationale, you ain’t gonna get it from museum pieces.

            Now, let’s take it a step further. The Apollo astronauts did what we needed them to do. In fact, in view of the primitive technology they were using, their accomplishments were all the more heroic. In the greater scheme of contemporary technological excellence, those accomplishments really weren’t that much. That’s not to dishonor them, but just to put their accomplishments in historical context. We’re not shooting people off to the Moon right now because our technology has stagnated, but rather because the rationale for doing so has stagnated.

            • If you compare the Saturn V to horses and carriages then I think you overrate advancement of your iPhone and the utility of the cat selfies you post on facebook.

              We’re not shooting people off to the Moon right now because our technology has stagnated, but rather because the rationale for doing so has stagnated.

              I don’t completely disagree with this. My only point was that the 60′s was a period of great innovation. IMHO, so were the 90′s up to the .com bubble. Tremendous advances in processors, networking, operating systems and languages. The 2010′s are nothing like that. The ideas of the 90′s are just being refined and distributed world wide. It is a period that seems to come every 30 years or so where mindless liberals relearn that Marxism doesn’t work.

              • Hiram

                Saturn V was BIG and EXPENSIVE. That’s largely what made it special. You’re right. Horses and carriages were neither. The technology for F-1 engines came out of the E-1s, which were developed in the 1950s as a backup for Titan. The Eiffel Tower is BIG and was EXPENSIVE. But it wasn’t a technological breakthrough. The iPhone is neither big nor expensive, though it’s transformed lives.

                My cats don’t take selfies, by the way. Our technological innovations haven’t resulted in a cat-operatable iPhone. A pity.

                The 60s was a period of great technological innovation in defense-related hardware because of the Soviet threat. Not much else, really.

                Moore’s Law still pertains, so it’s curious that you’ve given up on the 2010s for technical innovation. Even more curious that you give up on the 2010s because of liberals and Marxism. There is some mindlessness here, but it’s not with them. Wow, you connect Marxism with technological stagnation? That’s rich! I guess no one told the Soviets about that.

              • Moore’s Law still pertains, so it’s curious that you’ve given up on the 2010s for technical innovation. Even more curious that you give up on the 2010s because of liberals and Marxism. There is some mindlessness here, but it’s not with them. Wow, you connect Marxism with technological stagnation? That’s rich! I guess no one told the Soviets about that.

                The story of the last 5 years in the decrease in power consumption and increase in the number of processor cores. These are nice innovations, especially pertaining to portability. As a computer hobbyist who builds his own machines from parts, I love it. But these are refinements, not new technology.

                Nobody is more upset about this lost economic decade than I am. If the US economy grew to potential millions of people would be out of poverty and off of disability and food stamps. Who wouldn’t want that. I know, the haters who would rather we all suffer with the same low wages.

                Given the sheer size of the Soviet Union, its technological achievements were paltry.

  • Jim Nobles

    I did not expect any kind of court action this quick:

    Elon Musk’s SpaceX granted injunction in rocket launch suit against Lockheed-Boeing

    A Washington Post article:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/elon-musks-spacex-granted-injunction-in-rocket-launch-suit-against-lockheed-boeing/2014/04/30/4b028f7c-d0cd-11e3-937f-d3026234b51c_story.html

    • Michael Listner

      It’s a preliminary injunction, which is standard practice when a request for a permanent injunction is filed. USAF/United States will have an opportunity to reply and there will be a hearing before a permanent injunction is issued.

    • Michael Listner

      Interesting that the preliminary injunction focuses on the RD-180 engines and not whether ULA award was improper.

    • Michael Listner

      The Court looks to have issued the order sua sponte (on its own accord). Space X’s Complaint makes no request in its prayer for relief, although item (d) in the Prayer, “Such other relief as the Court deems just proper and equitable. Arguably, though the Court didn’t issue this preliminary injunction to protect any potential harm to Space X, but rather it seems to issued the preliminary injunction to ensure a federal executive order was not being violated.

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