Court lifts RD-180 injunction

The US Court of Federal Claims issued an order today formally lifting the injunction on payments to and from NPO Energomash for RD-180 engines used by United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. In the two-page order, Judge Susan Braden said her decision was based on the letters she received from the Departments of Commerce, State, and Treasury stating that they had not found that payments to Energomash contravened the sanctions on Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. The court also received a letter from Bradley Smith, chief counsel for Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department, with similar language to the previous ones, noting that no “affirmative determination” that Rogozin controls NPO Energomash had been made by his office or elsewhere in the government.

Based on the opinions in those letters, Judge Braden dissolved the April 30 injunction. However, she added that “if the Government receives any indication, however, that purchases from or payment of money to NPO Energomash by ULS, ULA, or the United States Air Force will directly or indirectly contravene Executive Order 13,661, the Government will inform the court immediately.”

While the order became available Thursday afternoon, news that the court had ended the injunction reached attendees of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) meeting in Washington around midday, ironically, during a presentation on an ongoing Defense Department study of RD-180 alternatives by former NASA administrator Mike Griffin. During the question-and-answer session of the presentation, Dan Collins, ULA chief operating officer and a member of COMSTAC, announced he hed received an email with the news the injunction was lifted; attendees greeted that announcement with a round of applause. “I’m personally pleased to hear that,” Griffin said.

“Me, too,” Collins responded.

9 comments to Court lifts RD-180 injunction

  • Malmesbury

    My understanding is that this does not affect the block buy issue – the underlying case proceeds.

    • Jeff Foust

      That is correct. The RD-180 issue was not linked to SpaceX’s key complaint that it is being deprived of opportunities to compete for EELV launches because of the block buy contract with ULA.

  • Jim Nobles

    Wow! Not an unexpected result but this means the DOD main launcher will remain tethered to Russian engines for years to come. This is an ugly picture.

    • Malmesbury

      I’m surprised you are surprised.

      A couple of hundred million will be spent on studying stuff about engines. Or studying studies. Or studying the right pot plants for the admin building for the project to studying building an engine.

      Too much invested in the status quo….

      • Jim Nobles

        I wasn’t really all that surprised. Actually I was more surprised when the Judge slapped the injunction on so quickly. But I guess I really hadn’t really thought about the consequences of the order being lifted even though I accepted the likelihood that it would be.

        I blame amightywind. I realized I agreed with him about the use of the RD-180 on DoD launchers. Not so much because they were Russian but because the weren’t American.

  • josh

    so treasury and state basically said we don’t know if rogozin profits from this and we don’t care. and we’re not gonna look into it because we might find out that he does. the sanctions are a joke.

    but ofc this was just the opening round: the real issue is the block buy, not violation of sanctions.

    as to griffin and collins laughing it up: “oink oink”, the pigs are heading back to the trough…

  • How many times must NASA dollars go to Russia, instead of America?

    ..and still receive applause from Griffinikov and company.

  • Tom Bagan

    The thing that is really disgusting is that we ever let ourselves become dependant on Russian rocket engines, Russian transportation to the space station and the like. We just exposed ourselves to blackmail for an alleged saving of a few bucks. How could we have been so stupid?

    • pathfinder_01

      In the case of transportation to the station it was more than a few bucks. The shuttle lacks lifeboat capability. It can transport crew to the station, but it cannot stay in space for months at an time. It could only stay about 2 weeks. Therefore a separate lifeboat craft was needed. The ISS was over budget and they decided to cancel it along with the US habitation model and centrifuge. $70 million to Russia was a lot cheaper than the $1.3 -1.4 billion they estimated before for the lifeboat. Crews would use Soyuz for lifeboat and for transportation. This also limits the ISS crew to 6 as the Soyuz can only carry three (but the ISS was built to support seven).

      The orbital space plane was the next idea. It would transport a crew of 4 to the station and back. The trouble was it used EELV and Congress gave little funding. The EELV don’t use the shuttle’s workforce. Then the shuttle program literally fell to pieces on the ground with Columbia. Soyuz was the only way to the station for two years.

      When the shuttle came back online it was realized that the thing needed to be retired. It still couldn’t function as lifeboat but even transporting crew could be problematic because the shuttle transported cargo. If the cargo was delayed, so too could be the crew transfer. They decided to let the shuttle focus on building the station and put the crew on Soyuz.

      Orion on top of Ares-1 was next but again over budget and late. It likely would not have been ready till 2017 at the soonest and even then there would be no station to go to as the plan was to cancel the ISS in 2015 to focus on the moon program. However with no station to go to Orion was useless because the Ares V wouldn’t be ready till the 2020ies. The ISS was extended to 2024,constellation was canceled. Orion was offered as a lifeboat as a bone to Congress, but they didn’t go for it. It is just as well considering that the current version of Orion is too heavy to its parachutes (if loaded with a crew and supplies) and has proven too heavy for the cables they wanted to use to tie it down in the recovery ship.

      Currently the Commercial Crew Craft are going after the role of transport and lifeboat despite a hostile Congress that does not want to fund them properly (because they don’t supply enough money to the right districts). And there isn’t enough money in the budget to do the job in an reasonable amount of time if you did use the Shuttle’s former workforce. They still haven’t worked on Orion’s life support system!

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