Government files motion to lift RD-180 injunction

Late Tuesday the US Government, the defendant in SpaceX’s EELV lawsuit, formally filed a motion with the US Court of Federal Claims to lift the injunction the court issued last week blocking the government from purchasing RD-180 rocket engines from Russian company Energomash. The government provided letters from the Departments of Treasury, Commerce, and State that demonstrate “purchases from or payments to NPO Energomash would not directly or indirectly contravene Executive Order 13,661,” the order that levied sanctions against several officials, including Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

The letters from Treasury and State argue that while there may be a “potential basis” for sanctions to be triggered, the order requires the departments to “make an affirmative determination to trigger blocking under the ‘controlled by’ provisions of the [court] order,” in the words of the State Department letter. Since the government has not made a formal determination that Rogozin controls Energomash, the departments concluded that payments to and from Energomash are not in violation of that executive order. (The Commerce Department deferred to Treasury and State in its letter.)

In the government’s motion, it requested “expedited consideration” of the request. As of early Tuesday evening, the court hasn’t acted. However, a spokesperson representing SpaceX emailed late Tuesday afternoon, before the motion was filed, that the company expected the court to lift the injunction “as early as today.”

21 comments to Government files motion to lift RD-180 injunction

  • Jim Nobles

    This is not surprising, really. Once the injunction is lifted the court can concentrate on the meat of the complaint; is the block-buy proper, legal, in the best interests of America, and all the rest.

  • Oh well, it was entertaining while it lasted.

    I guess Господин Рогозин can put his trampoline back in storage.

    Maybe Elon can retaliate by test-flying his F9R up to 2,000 meters (just did 1,000) then land it, and challenge ULA to do the same.

    • E.P. Grondine

      Hi Steven –

      My guess is that ULA would love to be working on fly-back re-usable first stages and new engines.

      • garidan

        “ULA would love to be working on fly-back re-usable first stages and new engines” if Government pays for it.
        SpaceX is investing its own money ….

        • E.P. Grondine

          Some guesses:

          Since Griffin allowed Bush Jr. to waste $8 billion of the NASA budget on ATK’s Ares 1, Sen McCain and the other members will likely fund this through the DoD budget.

          If things continue, China will likely be approaching Russia to buy all the military and space tech it can. This will likely include all of the research on the fly-back Zenit.

          I do not think that China will partner with Russia alone on space projects.

          If ISS goes down, will NASA HSF?

          What will Europe (as in the “f*** the EU Europe) do about the whole mess?

          There is more to space than manned flight to Mars.

      • Michael Kent

        “My guess is that ULA would love to be working on fly-back re-usable first stages and new engines.”

        Maybe so, but they can’t, and they won’t. It’s not in their charter.

      • Vladislaw

        What is stopping or stopped Lockheed Martin from working on flyback technology?

  • Neil

    Not surprising however it wasn’t the main thrust of the action anyway which was to challenge the AF on the basis of awarding a sole-source contract to ULA.
    That’s of most interest.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Jeff –

    In the real world, space policy is made in the more general political environment.

    Where the US economy will be, and who partners with who is decided in that larger political environment.

    For that matter, who sells to who is decided within that larger political environment as well.

    NASA has multiple goals. But for some people, a small but vocal part of the population, and NASA supporters, manned Mars flight should be NASA’s only goal.

    This minority of the voters runs small forums and support “magazines” where they confirm themselves in their beliefs.

    They are now split into two factions, those who think “mankind” can get to Mars with the SLS and those who think “mankind” can get to Mars with SpaceX’s Falcon launchers.

  • josh

    Basically they don’t care if rogozin profits from this as long as they can keep buying engines. This is definitely in violation of the spirit if not the letter of the sanctions. What a joke.

    • Gary Warburton

      Doublespeak abounds, according to certain politicians it was Obama who cancelled the shuttle. Say these things enough and it becomes the truth.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Since the government has not made a formal determination that Rogozin controls Energomash, the departments concluded that payments to and from Energomash are not in violation of that executive order.”

    Goofy, lazy, kabuki logic. It’s like there’s a bureaucratic world and the real world.

    As long as State and Treasury don’t do their homework in the bureaucratic world and actually determine whether Rogozin is benefitting from RD-180 payments, he must not be. Even if Rogozin is benefitting in the real world from RD-180 payments.

    It’s like hiring a private investigator to find out whether my wife is cheating on me. As long as the PI never does his work and investigates, then my wife must not be cheating on me, even if she actually hitting the Lonely Hearts Motel every week.

    No news is good news, I guess. But that’s hardly an honest or even effective way to enforce sanctions.

    • Neil

      DBN! Whoever said that politics was about honesty!

      • Dark Blue Nine

        Politics isn’t honest, but this isn’t politics. It’s sanctions enforcement, judicial proceedings, and lazy bureaucracy. Either Rogozin is or is not benefitting from RD-180 sales. State and Treasury shouldn’t be allowed to sidestep that determination by saying that they’ve failed to do their homework. In an age where the NSA is practically recording every phone call and email on the planet, it should be possible to track down the relevant exchanges, put them in front of an interpreter, and determine whether rubles from RD AMROSS or NPO Energomash are flowing to Rogozin.

        If the USG can’t make these determinations in order to enforce its own sanctions, then there’s no point to the sanctions. The sanctions are supposed to create pain for and put pressure on Putin’s inner circle. If the departments responsible for enforcing these sanctions refuse to determine the sources of income for Putin’s inner circle, then those departments will never be able to put pressure on Putin’s inner circle.

        I imagine the judge just wanted bureaucratic boilerplate to cover the court’s arse on this issue after the SpaceX petition raised it. But it would be nice to see the judiciary hold these bureaucracies accountable and tell them to go back and do their homework.

        This issue is much bigger than RD-180 or the space sector. Are the Russian sanctions just feel-good measures or are we actually going to enforce something?

    • Ben Russell-Gough

      Actually, you’re right DB9. There is a bureaucratic logic distinct from everyday logic and it does have different starting assumptions, limitations and standards of proof. I think that’s one of the reasons that the world is in its current mess.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    No great surprise. I wouldn’t say it’s all over bar the shouting but the opinions seem pretty solid that they can look the other way in this circumstance.

  • Jim Nobles

    So, as of right now (5:20 pm Central) The Government basically told the Judge that since they didn’t say any of the ULA money was making its way to a sanctioned party there is no need to keep ULA from sending more money?

    But the Judge has not yet lifted the injunction? Is there another issue?

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