Since the preliminary injunction issued by the US Court of Federal Claims late Wednesday that blocked the US Air Force and United Launch Alliance (ULA) from making any payments to NPO Energomash, the Russian company that manufactures the RD-180 engine used by ULA’s Atlas V, there has been a increasingly heated war of words among the parties involved in the suit regarding the language of the injuction, in the form of a series of filings made to the court.
The debate started Friday when the Justice Department filed with the court a proposed order clarifying one aspect of the injunction. That proposed order states that the injunction “does not apply to Government purchases from or payments to either United Launch Services, LLC (ULS) or United Launch Alliance, LLC (ULA). The United States may continue to make payments to ULS and/or ULA.” That seems straightforward enough, although to the non-legal eye, there’s nothing in the original injunction that would appear to have prohibited such payments in the first case.
However, in a response filed with the court on Sunday, SpaceX’s legal counsel strongly opposed the proposed order. “In other words, Defendant asks the Court to permit the Government to continue to provide funds to Defendant-Intervenor even if Defendant cannot certify that those funds will flow to NPO Energomash and/or other entities that may be under the control of Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin,” the document states. (In the legal language of the filing, the Defendant is the US Government, while the “Defendant-Intervenor” is United Launch Alliance and its operating entity, United Launch Services.) “In essence, Defendant seeks to continue business as usual under the EELV program—including paying monies to ULS—relieved from any obligation to ensure that those monies do not flow in violation of sanctions.”
On Monday, ULS responded to SpaceX’s response, mincing no words. “SpaceX’s response is a frivolous and improper attempt to interfere with ULS’s business by needlessly expanding an injunction it never sought in the first place,” it states. “There is no basis whatsoever for SpaceX’s libelous suggestion that the United States, ULS, and ULA will try to ‘circumvent’ the Court’s Order.” It adds that under the “plain terms” of the order, the Air Force can continue to make payments to ULS “because ULS is obviously not under the control of Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin.”
In documents filed with the court Friday, the parties anticipated the presiding judge, Susan G. Braden, would rule on the proposed order on Monday. As of late Monday afternoon, the court had not yet issued a decision.
Update 1 pm May 6: In a one-sentence order released Tuesday morning, Judge Braden denied the proposed order filed Friday by the US Government: “For the reasons discussed during the May 5, 2014 status conference, the Government’s May 2, 2014 Motion For Clarification Of Preliminary Injunction Order is denied.” No additional reason is given, nor any other details about the status conference held Monday afternoon by telephone.