Other, Pentagon

Hearing set for today on motion to lift RD-180 injunction

The US Court of Federal Claims has scheduled a hearing for 10 am Eastern this morning regarding the motion filed by the US government on Tuesday to lift the preliminary injunction blocking payments to Energomash, the Russian company that manufactures the RD-180 engines used on the Atlas V. In filings with the court Tuesday, government lawyers provided letters from officials in the Departments of State and Treasury that argued that sanctions that applied to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin didn’t block payments to Energomash, since the US government hadn’t made an “affirmative determination” that Rogozin controlled, and profited from, Energomash.

In a filing with the court late Wednesday, SpaceX’s lawyers disputed the government’s argument that the injunction should be lifted. “What Defendant has provided instead with its motion are three nonresponsive letters stating that these agencies have simply not yet made any determination one way or the other regarding whether payments to NPO Energomash violate Executive Order 13,661,” its response states, arguing that the injunction should remain in place until the government agencies do make a determination, one way or the other, about whether the sanctions against Rogozin apply to payments to Energomash.

United Launch Alliance (ULA), in a statement posted on its website, backed the government’s motion to lift the injunction, while also firing a shot at SpaceX. “Unfortunately, SpaceX has made many public but unfounded speculations to create negative perceptions of a competitor solely for purposes of its own self-interest,” ULA stated. “This frivolous lawsuit caused unnecessary distraction of our executive branch leaders during a sensitive national security crisis.”

Meanwhile, the Air Force has spoken publicly about SpaceX’s original lawsuit for the first time since Elon Musk announced plans to file the case nearly two weeks ago. Speaking to Aviation Week, Lt. Gen. Charles R. Davis, military deputy in the Air Force’s acquisition office, defended the decision to seek a block buy EELV contract with ULA, arguing it saved money and that, when the contract was signed, there were no other qualified competitors. Musk had previously argued that the Air Force should have delayed the contract, but Davis said that wasn’t an option. “If we had delayed that [we would] award a lot less and pay a lot more,” he told the magazine.

Davis did say that SpaceX is on track to win certification for EELV-class launches, which he said expects to be completed by next March although “we’d love to have them done by the end of December of this year.” He said the Air Force and NRO are trying to schedule a launch contract to be awarded next year so that SpaceX would be eligible to compete for it.

77 comments to Hearing set for today on motion to lift RD-180 injunction

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “In filings with the court Tuesday, government lawyers provided letters from officials in the Departments of State and Treasury that argued that sanctions that applied to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin didn’t block payments to Energomash, since the US government hadn’t made an ‘affirmative determination’ that Rogozin controlled, and profited from, Energomash.”

    State and Treasury are like the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil monkeys. As long as they cover their eyes and ears, then they don’t have to make an actual determination. Heaven forbid that sanctions actually be investigated, enforced, and have some teeth. Or that the these bureaucracies actually do something in exchange for their taxpayer-supported salaries.

    “Davis did say that SpaceX is on track to win certification for EELV-class launches, which he said expects to be completed by next March”

    The third certification launch was in December. Why does it take 15 months — over a year — for the USAF to process the paperwork to certify three lousy launches? Is the Pentagon bureaucracy powered by a hamster wheel?

    Cripes…

    • Jeff

      “three lousy launches” is right! Why would we as a country stake our national defense on a vehicle and company that only has “three lousy launches”?!

      • josh

        actually falcon 9 has flown nine times.

        i guess you just prefer staking your country’s security on institutionalized corruption, i.e. ula being awarded sole source contracts indefinitely.

        • Jeff

          This is America, where you are guilty until proven innocent! Whoa, that isn’t how it works in America! So why is an unproven statement by SpaceX taken as “proof” and the basis of a Federal Court action? Doesn’t seem very American to me… guilty until proven innocent? It’s just wrong!

        • Jeff

          Josh – There is no “instutionalized corruption”, you have no proof as there is none. ULA is not being awarded sole source contracts “indefinately”, that is just not true (and if you knock ULA out, isn’t SpaceX then the same character you want to demonize?). Just check your facts.

        • Ad Astra

          Yep, including Falcon 9 and 9 v1.1, Falcon has flown 9 times. And failed to deploy a satellite 1 of those times.

          No wonder the USAF doesn’t want to risk it’s payloads on a vehicle with an 11% failure rate.

          • Rodaln

            The Falcon 9 has a 100% success rate. It has put its primary payload into the proper orbit on each of its 9 launches.

            That failure you mention was for a secondary, non-guaranteed payload. Falcon often carries secondary payloads of cubesats. There was no mission failure.

            Falcon 9 is every bit as reliable as the boosters made by United Launch Alliance. It just costs 80% less.

        • Michael Kent

          The Falcon 9 may have flown nine times, but the Falcon 9 v1.1, the vehicle being offered by SpaceX for EELV medium and intermediate class launches, has only flown four times.
          And ULA is not being offered sole-sourced launches indefinitely. It is being offered 2-1/2 years’ worth of launches until such time that SpaceX can perform most USAF missions. Currently they cannot.

      • Robert G. Oler

        Jeff…if you think that the national defense rest on three launches then you well dont have a clue RGO

        • Jeff

          Robert, I do not, nor have I stated such. Please re-read my original comment and then try to address my statement… your comment is completely detached from mine.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “Why would we as a country stake our national defense on a vehicle… that only has ‘three lousy launches’?!”

        Why not? We risked national defense payloads on the second launch of the Delta IV Medium _and_ the second launch of the Delta IV Heavy. Duh…

        And, unless ULA can’t win a single launch, since when is opening launches up to competition “staking our national defense on a [sic] vehicle”? Holy hyperbole, Batman.

        “So why is an unproven statement by SpaceX taken as ‘proof’ and the basis of a Federal Court action?”

        It’s not “taken as proof”. That’s why the court has asked State and Treasury to verify that Rogozin isn’t skimming from AMROSS/Energomash.

        “There is no ‘instutionalized corruption’, you have no proof as there is none.”

        Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. That’s why there is discovery at court trials.

        “ULA is not being awarded sole source contracts ‘indefinately’ [sic]”

        No, just 70 billion worth of taxpayer dollars over the next half decade.

        • Jeff

          Dark Blue Nine – Wasn’t there a long history on Delta that was able to significantly reduce the risk with the initial flight of the new Delta? Yes. Is there any similar history with Falcon. No. So is SpaceX is being given a great benefit with only a 3 launch qualification… Yes! The SpaceX lawsuit against the USAF is a wonderful expression of gratitude for their lack of a proven history. But they are saving our tax dollars right? (or isn’t the USAF part of the US Government?)

          Seems to me ULA is very serious about taking SpaceX on in the competitive market… seems SpaceX wants to try and avoid the market and instead try to use the courts. Very American don’t you think? Not!

          Without reasonable basis, and not just because SpaceX says so, that should be the basis of action. In this specific case the judge ruled guilty until proven innocent. Absolutely unethical, but very effective marketing strategy by SpaceX. Get a headline that bashes/questions your competitor; but no apology or retraction when found false. Very SpaceX.

          If you believe SpaceX pricing is not going to substantially increase when they have to compete with ULA under the same US Government mandated requirements, you are very foolish. I am not. Today’s SpaceX pricing is only its way of getting into the market, they have yet to comply with the full compliment of Government requirements (even NASA has testified that SpaceX isn’t fully compliant under the very limited requiremnts that they should comply with today).

          And the real concern I have, (even beyond their ethics), they still have no record of making launches to schedule or with consistent reliability

          Distort the facts as you may (its very SpaceX to do so), that’s the way it really is.

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “Wasn’t there a long history on Delta that was able to significantly reduce the risk with the initial flight of the new Delta?”

            No. Delta IV was a clean-sheet design. It had little to no heritage from prior Deltas.

            “So is SpaceX is being given a great benefit with only a 3 launch qualification”

            That’s two more launches than Delta IV Medium and Delta IV Heavy had before certification. It’s no benefit to SpaceX and clearly an uneven playing field.

            “The SpaceX lawsuit against the USAF is a wonderful expression of gratitude for their lack of a proven history.”

            No, it’s an expression, among other things, that USAF is making Falcon 9 jump through hoops that Delta IV and Atlas V never had to.

            “Seems to me ULA is very serious about taking SpaceX on in the competitive market”

            Then ULA should refuse the sole-sourced, five-year, 36-core block buy and ask that the USAF compete it.

            “seems SpaceX wants to try and avoid the market and instead try to use the courts.”

            There is no USAF market to compete for. USAF has sole-sourced with ULA for the vast majority of its launches, and reduced to practically nothing its competed launches.

            This is why SpaceX has gone to court — so that there is a USAF launch market to compete for.

            “In this specific case the judge ruled guilty until proven innocent.”

            The judge lifted the injunction on the RD-180s yesterday. The judge is so far siding with USAF and ULA.

            “If you believe SpaceX pricing is not going to substantially increase when they have to compete with ULA under the same US Government mandated requirements”

            I do believe it. SpaceX has repeatedly stated that USAF requirements add ~$40 million to their ~$60 million base price for a Falcon 9 launch.

            But that ~$100 million total is still 3-4x less than the equivalent Atlas V or Delta IV launch. With that much of a price differential and hundreds of millions of limited taxpayer and DOD dollars on the line every launch, there is no good reason not to open the block buy up to competition.

            “they have yet to comply with the full compliment of Government requirements (even NASA has testified that SpaceX isn’t fully compliant under the very limited requiremnts that they should comply with today).”

            Bullcrap ignorant FUD lying. NASA has never stated anything like that, in testimony or elsewhere. NASA wouldn’t let anyone near the $60-100 billion ISS if SpaceX didn’t meet NASA’s requirements, and SpaceX has executed several missions to the ISS. And NASA’s requirements to deal with a human-rated space vehicle like ISS are way, way more onerous than anything USAF passes down for launching unmanned satellites.

            “they still have no record of making launches to schedule”

            More bullcrap ignorant FUD lying. SpaceX turns around pad issues in hours to a day or two. ULA typically takes weeks. STS took months.

            “or with consistent reliability”

            Yet more bullcrap ignorant FUD lying. Falcon 9 has successfully delivered every primary payload. It doesn’t get much more consistently reliable than that.

            “(even beyond their ethics)”

            Since when is it unethical to try to save taxpayer and national defense dollars? Since when is it unethical to ask for open competition instead of sole-sourced monopolization?

            “And the real concern I have”

            No one cares about your concerns, real or otherwise.

            You’re an ignoramus spreading lies and unfounded FUD.

            “you are very foolish.”

            And you’re a flaming ignorant idiot.

          • Vladislaw

            Jeff wrote:

            “Seems to me ULA is very serious about taking SpaceX on in the competitive market… ”

            Tell the truth .. you REALLY didn’t type that with a straight face did you?

            ULA.Boing.Lockheed who gives NASA and DOD such convoluted cost data they don’t know real costs? NASA STILL is only a ballparking within millions. Not a few cents, a few dollars . a few hundred or thousands of dollars. Ballparking within millions. The GAO just released a new report on SLS/Orion.. the cost projections are imaginary.

            The day ULA posts their prices on their website come talk again about this.

  • Robert G. Oler

    ““If we had delayed that [we would] award a lot less and pay a lot more,” he told the magazine.”

    there are about 10 things that are standard boilerplate to say in defending excess military spending and this is number 2. RGO

  • Betty White

    SpaceX is just a setup by the government to froce ULA to lower their prices anyway. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s true. The government never plans on using SpaceX, they just want to add pressure to ULA to drive down prices big time.

    Elon Musk is totally controlled by the government.

  • Simon

    ‘The service is spending $250 million to conduct the certification work, Davis says.’

    Musk said the certification was a “paper exercise”. So is that 250 officers shuffling bits of paper at an average annual salary of $1 million? Or 1000 at $250,000? Or…

    This is a fair proportion of what SpaceX has spent to develop the damn rocket over several years!

    • There seems to be something wrong with a certification process if the USAF certification process costs DOD and taxpayers more than twice the price an F9v1.1 vehicle.

      • William

        Maybe we really don’t know what a F9v1.1 really costs? and maybe it reflects that the F9v.1.1 still doesn’t have the reliability record to make its qualification very easy for those who will need to depend upon it to be reliable and on schedule?

        • Well, you can check the internet for F9 prices…
          SpaceX has qualified to bid with the 3 successful launches, it’s up the USAF to complete the cert..which may not be until next year because it takes a long time to spend 250 million.

        • Dark Blue Nine

          “Maybe we really don’t know what a F9v1.1 really costs?”

          To clear up this FUD, scroll down to “Price”:

          http://www.spacex.com/about/capabilities

          “the F9v.1.1 still doesn’t have the reliability record”

          To clear up this FUD, the four launch record of the Falcon 9v1.1 exceeds that of ULA’s:

          – A5402: 0 launches
          – A5411: 3 launches
          – A5412: 0 launches
          – A5421: 3 launches
          – A5431: 2 launches
          – A5502: 0 launches
          – A5511: 0 launches
          – A5512: 0 launches
          – A5521: 2 launches
          – A5522: 0 launches
          – A5531: 3 launches
          – A5532: 0 launches
          – A5541: 2 launches
          – A5542: 0 launches
          – A5552: 0 launches
          – DIVM: 3 launches
          – DIVM+(5,2): 1 launch

          There are many ULA vehicles and configurations against which Falcon 9 can compete very well on reliability. To claim otherwise is FUD.

          • Jeff

            Dark Blue Nine – So I go to the SpaceX website and I find an “advertised” price. Does that inform me of the cost? No. (Would you like to remind me again on the “complications” NASA has had trying to understand SpaceX’s pricing as stated in open testimony, or should we just ignore that?) Is it possible that SpaceX is working a business model that underprices its hardware to gain entry in the market with the expectation that it will be able to raise its price later? Yes.

            Falcon 9v1.1 launch record: How many successful launches? 4?! That’s it?! How many of those went on their original launch schedule? (no need to answer, it’s zero…) So how you think this compares with an Atlas V is mission impossible… it does not. College basketball star trying to compare to Michael Jordan.

            • Dark Blue Nine

              “So I go to the SpaceX website and I find an ‘advertised’ price. Does that inform me of the cost?”

              Yes, it does. SpaceX has stated in several places that additional USAF costs add another $40M. So, follow carefully, ~$60M base price plus $40M in additional USAF costs, adds to a launch cost total of ~$100M or about 3-4x less than the equivalent EELV launch.

              http://www.universetoday.com/111535/spacex-ceo-elon-musk-sues-government-to-break-us-air-forces-national-security-launch-monopoly/

              “(Would you like to remind me again on the ‘complications’ NASA has had trying to understand SpaceX’s pricing as stated in open testimony, or should we just ignore that?)”

              NASA has no “complications” (whatever that means) with SpaceX pricing, in testimony or otherwise.

              In a NASA report to Congress, an appendix explained that the NAFCOM model for costing (not pricing) the development of a launch vehicle like Falcon 9 predicted that it would be 4-10x higher than what NASA and SpaceX actually spent developing Falcon 9. This is not surprising given that NAFCOM relies on historical parametrics that are decades old.

              Regardless, it’s a savings to the taxpayer. Had NASA followed historical models instead of the COTS model, Falcon 9 would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars more to develop.

              “So how [sic] you think this compares with an Atlas V”

              I think the numbers above speak for themselves. Most Atlas V configurations have launched less then four times. Falcon 9 v1.1 beats them on reliability (forget cost) and should be allowed to compete.

              “College basketball star trying to compare to Michael Jordan.”

              Dumb analogy. Given Jordan’s age and years out of the NBA, there are probably lots of college basketball stars that could outperform him today.

              Past results are not a guarantee of future performance. It’s not what ULA has done in the past. It’s what ULA will do in the future. And right now, in most of its LV configurations, ULA can only offer worse reliability at grossly greater costs than SpaceX.

              • Jeff

                Dark Blue Nine – How long have you worked for SpaceX?

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “Dark Blue Nine – How long have you worked for SpaceX?”

                Never. I’ve always worked on the government side.

                How long have you been an ignorant idiot spreading lies and FUD?

          • Michael Kent

            Oh, good grief! Now who’s spreading FUD?
            You are too clued in to the space launch industry not to know that the Air Force has not flown a dual-engine Centaur on the Atlas V and has no plans to do so.
            You also should know that neither NASA, the USAF, nor ULA consider swapping a payload fairing or adjusting the number of SRBs enough of a change to require recertification. But changing the tanks, thrust structure, and engines of both the first and second stages is.

    • Michael Kent

      And now you see why space launch is so expensive.

  • Malmesbury

    “Three lousy launches” was the standard defined by those notorious anti-patriots and novices is the field of national security, the USAF.

    Darn those evil “meeting the requirements types”. Can’t they see that doing things that work is BadForAmerica (TM)??

    • Jeff

      Malmesbury, maybe you would put your mother on a SpaceX launch, but I would not. Be brave if you want, just don’t do it with my tax dollars. SpaceX does not have a success record that builds any immediate confidence… unless of course you enjoy and also believe infomercials?

      • My mom is too old to ride, but if the guy building the rockets is planning to ride his own products, I’d be willing to sit next to him.

      • Vladislaw

        The Airforce wants to launch mothers on launch vehicles?

        Is this a new program? I guess I do not understand why you are bringing mothers up.

        There has to be some sort of violation of logic when you bring mothers into the debate on launch vehicle certifications that will only be used to launch airforce hardware and never people.

  • Jeff

    So… anybody got an update?

    • Jeff Foust

      At this morning’s COMSTAC meeting, Dan Collins of ULA said he received word that the judge had lifted the injunction. However, the court has yet, as of this moment, to publish a formal order.

  • josh

    You prefer to have your tax dollars go to a monopolist who charges for times more for the exact same service. Got it.
    Spacex’s track record with the Falcon 9 is at least as good as ula’s with delta and atlas.

    • Jeff

      Sorry Josh, but there are no facts to support your statement. Your expressed opinion is incorrect.

      • josh

        no, ula actually charges four times more. deal with it.

        • Jeff

          Josh, Do you have anything beyond SpaceX market hype that is spun for its own benefit?! No? Didn’t think so. It’s misrepresented information stated by SpaceX as fact. Watch an infomercial and you can get the idea how its done… say it enough times and some people begin to believe it.

    • Ad Astra

      No, SpaceX’s record is nowhere near ULA’s. Since ULA has existed it has had 81 of 81 successful missions. In SpaceX’s 9 Falcon 9 launches, they’ve already burned up one of their payloads:

      “Two days after its launch the OG2 prototype re-entered and burned up in Earth’s atmosphere. Orbcomm is claiming the mission a total loss.”

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “Two days after its launch the OG2 prototype”

        To clear the FUD, that was an experimental, secondary payload getting reduced rate on an ISS launch. The primary ISS mission was a success.

        • Jeff

          If it had been a success, I’m certain SpaceX would count it. As a failure, SpaceX likes to ignore it. Guess what is “right” depends upon who does the counting?

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “Guess what is ‘right’ depends upon who does the counting?”

            There is no “right” beyond accurately describing the failure. And the failure was just a secondary payload that had no impact on the primary mission.

            Grow up.

            • Jeff

              Dark Blue Nice – No basis of fact to offer to your argument so go to personal attacks? Very grown up.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “No basis of fact to offer to your argument”

                It is a fact that Orbcomm-G2 was an experimental, secondary payload that was delivered into a low orbit because of NASA requirements for their primary payload on that launch. You can look it up on Wikipedia, for crissakes:

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Falcon_9_launches#Launch_history_and_manifest

                Don’t be such an ignorant idiot and learn how to use a search engine. We’re not going to spoon-feed you forever, you big baby.

                “so go to personal attacks? Very grown up.”

                You’ve called me and other posters “foolish” and claimed that we work for SpaceX. You went to ad hominem attacks first, you ignorant infantile idiot.

        • Vladislaw

          Gosh Dark Blue, I would imagine that SpaceX lost a customer when NASA didn’t want SpaceX firing so close the ISS and Orbcom lost that, secondary payload. I know they got the flight at an extremely reduced price but they must never want to launch with SpaceX ever again.

          Oh wait … nevermind.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “No, SpaceX’s record is nowhere near ULA’s.”

        To clear up the FUD, Falcon 9′s nine launch record exceeds that of ULA’s:

        - A5501: 5 launches
        - A5551: 4 launches
        - DIVM+(5,4): 4 launches
        - DIVH: 7 launches

        Even just the four launch record of the Falcon 9v1.1 exceeds that of ULA’s:

        - A5402: 0 launches
        - A5411: 3 launches
        - A5412: 0 launches
        - A5421: 3 launches
        - A5431: 2 launches
        - A5502: 0 launches
        - A5511: 0 launches
        - A5512: 0 launches
        - A5521: 2 launches
        - A5522: 0 launches
        - A5531: 3 launches
        - A5532: 0 launches
        - A5541: 2 launches
        - A5542: 0 launches
        - A5552: 0 launches
        - DIVM: 3 launches
        - DIVM+(5,2): 1 launch

        There are many ULA vehicles and configurations against which Falcon 9 can compete very well on reliability. To claim otherwise is FUD.

      • Bob

        “Since ULA has existed it has had 81 of 81 successful missions. In SpaceX’s 9 Falcon 9 launches, they’ve already burned up one of their payloads”

        While it predates the formation of ULA, would you consider the Delta IV Heavy DemoSat mission a success?

        • Michael Kent

          Both the Delta IV Heavy DemoSat mission and the Falcon CRS-1 mission put their primary payloads into an orbit acceptable to their customer. Both count as successes. To claim one but not the other is being disingenuous.

  • Hiram

    This discussion is kinda funny. The issue here is both success record and cost. SpaceX is offering lift for vastly lower cost with a higher risk. That’s a value judgement for the procurement officials, if SpaceX is even allowed to enter a bid. But, so far, they aren’t. So the value arguments here are really just a lot of blather. The argument we need to consider isn’t which launcher offers more value, but whether that value is allowed to be formally assessed. The question might be whether, with three launches under their belt, SpaceX should even be qualified to undergo such an assessment. It’s pretty hard to argue that they shouldn’t.

    • Ad Astra

      SpaceX is absolutely allowed to bid – when they’re certified. It’s not the USAF’s fault that they are years behind schedule in getting certified. At some point a decision was made to lock in $4B in savings rather than wait for SpaceX to get its act together. And the 3 launches are not the only criteria SpaceX was deficient on. They still haven’t opened their business systems to government inspection, as ULA has done from the start.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “SpaceX is absolutely allowed to bid – when they’re certified.”

        Wrong. USAF has stated to the GAO that new entrants can bid after submitting data from their third certification launch. USAF awarded ULA the block buy within days of SpaceX’s third certification launch.

        • Michael Kent

          The block buy was awarded nearly a month before the Falcon 9 v1.1′s third launch and nearly three months before SpaceX submitted their data for certification.
          By your own criteria SpaceX was ineligible to bid on the launches in the block buy.

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “The block buy was awarded nearly a month before the Falcon 9 v1.1′s third launch and nearly three months before SpaceX submitted their data for certification.”

            That’s fine for a contract that ties up the EELV program for a year or so while new vehicles are entering the market. Falcon 9 didn’t make it to the finish-line this year… better luck next year.

            It’s boneheaded to sign a contract that ties up the EELV program for the next _half decade_ within days of a new entrant’s final certification launch. That’s stupid beyond belief.

            • Michael Kent

              They didn’t tie up EELV for a half decade.

              1) SpaceX already has two EELV-class launches from the Air Force in this time period.

              2) Fourteen launches were withheld from the block buy for SpaceX to bid on.

              3) The Air Force concluded that SpaceX couldn’t perform the 28 launches awarded to ULA, so they might as well wrap them up in the block buy and save some money over awarding them to ULA individually.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “They didn’t tie up EELV for a half decade.”

                For all intents and purposes, the block buy does that. Competed launches have dropped from 14 to 7 and are headed toward zero, while the sole-sourced block buy covers 36 cores through at least 2017 and likely 2019 given usual schedule slips. That effectively shuts down competition in the EELV program for the next half-decade.

                “1) SpaceX already has two EELV-class launches from the Air Force in this time period.”

                Those aren’t EELV launches.

                “2) Fourteen launches were withheld from the block buy for SpaceX to bid on.”

                Which have been reduced to seven, with the USAF warning that they will likely go to zero.

                “3) The Air Force concluded that SpaceX couldn’t perform the 28 launches awarded to ULA”

                There’s 36 launches in the block buy. USAF made no such determination because SpaceX was not allowed to bid.

              • Michael Kent

                There are 36 cores in the block buy. Four of the missions are Delta IV Heavy missions which require three cores each. The end result: 28 launches.
                ULA has averaged 11 flights a year throughout its entire seven-year history. 28 launches are 2-1/2 years worth of launches. Not a decade nor a half-decade.
                Of course the two awarded EELV-class launches and the seven competed launches will be happening in this timreframe, so SpaceX wasn’t “locked out” of EELV launches.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “ULA has averaged 11 flights a year throughout its entire seven-year history”

                Not national defense payload launches, which is what we’re talking about here and which are often delayed months to years by payload issues outside the launcher’s control.

                Moreover, the block buy explicitly covers through 2017-2019.

                “the seven competed launches”

                Which, again, USAF has warned are headed to zero (or one).

                “so SpaceX wasn’t ‘locked out’ of EELV launches”

                Don’t put words in my mouth — I didn’t use the term “locked out”. But I will say again that between the block buy and the remaining competed launches heading towards zero, competition for national defense payload launches is effectively eliminated for the next half-decade.

                This is happening at exactly the same time that new entrants can make competition possible. Totally boneheaded on USAF’s part, which is not surprising given that the EELV PEO who oversaw this decision (now retired) used to run roads and commodes at Ogden before arriving at the Pentagon.

      • Vladislaw

        They only have to submit the paperwork before they can bid.

      • Hiram

        “At some point a decision was made to lock in $4B in savings rather than wait for SpaceX to get its act together.”

        Yeah, the USAF procurement decision was made within days of the third certification launch. Wow, the wait for SpaceX to get its act together would have been lengthy, don’t you think? You know, you can say that the decision was justified by the letter of the law, but the decision was timed extraordinarily well to be shielded by that letter. This was a procurement that was carefully designed to exclude SpaceX.

        • Michael Kent

          On the contrary, the USAF is bending over backwards to include SpaceX in their launch plans.
          Nearly a century of procurement law and practice requires offerors to be certified for aerospace production and services before being allowed to bid. Uncertified bids are normally summarily rejected. SpaceX was not certified on the day the block buy was awarded. Full stop. They are eligible for none of the launches.
          But the Air Force did something almost unprecendented. They held back fourteen launches from the block buy to allow new entrants (read “SpaceX”) to bid on them when they became certified. Under the law and standard practice, the Air Force didn’t have to do that. They did it to give SpaceX a break and encourage them to submit bids in the future.
          And then SpaceX turned around and sued them for their trouble, potentially putting critical national security launches at risk. I guess no good deed ever goes unpunished.

          • Dark Blue Nine

            “On the contrary, the USAF is bending over backwards to include SpaceX in their launch plans… They held back fourteen launches from the block buy to allow new entrants (read “SpaceX”) to bid on them when they became certified.”

            In the end, the USAF did no such thing. The 14 competed launches were reduced 7 or 8, with warnings they would likely be reduced to 0 or 1. All while tying up the EELV program for the next _half decade_ in a 36-core block buy.

            Reducing the number of launches that new entrants can bid on to practically nil, while the incumbent gets a guaranteed 7-odd launch cores per year for the next half-decade, is not bending over backwards for competition. It’s going to great lengths to discourage and eliminate competition.

            • Vladislaw

              I do not understand how they can write that stuff with straight face … but for .25 cents a word … LOL

            • Michael Kent

              The fourteen competed launches didn’t go away. Seven of them remain in the FY-15 to FY-17 timeframe covered by the proposed buy. SpaceX will still be eligible to bid on those.

              Five others were GPS III satellites which will still launch but later than the covered time period. That isn’t some conspiracy. It’s because the GPS IIA, GPS IIR, and GPS IIF satellites are all lasting way longer than their design life (a good thing, I would think). SpaceX will still be eligible to bid on those when they are put out for bid.

              One was a payload that grew too heavy for the Falcon 9 — SpaceX can’t launch it. I’m not sure what happened to the last one.

              The other 28 launches were put in the block buy because the Air Force concluded that SpaceX would not be able to launch them.

              You act like this is some conspiracy. It is not. When the Air Force concludes that SpaceX can perform the launches SpaceX will be allowed to bid on them. But not before.

              • Dark Blue Nine

                “The fourteen competed launches didn’t go away. Seven of them remain in the FY-15 to FY-17 timeframe covered by the proposed buy.”

                Most likely not. USAF has warned that those seven will probably go away, too.

                “The other 28 launches were put in the block buy because the Air Force concluded that SpaceX would not be able to launch them.”

                There’s 36 launches in the block buy. USAF made no such determination because SpaceX was not allowed to bid.

                “That isn’t some conspiracy.”

                No one said it was. In fact, I think I’ve used the term “boneheaded”. Never ascribe to malice what is usually just stupidity.

  • James B Franks

    By order of the Secretary a new entrant is allowed to bid after submitting the data from the 3rd successful consecutive launch. The do not have to wait for certification.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    A relevant, if poorly acted, video:

    http://www.transterrestrial.com/?p=54825

  • Jim Nobles

    The ULA monopoly was tolerated in order to fulfill a need. The conditions within which that monopoly was created no longer exist. When ULA was created there were warnings that this very situation could occur. That monopoly conditions usually bring on other problems. These problems were predictable and they have come to pass as predicted.

    Now the conditions that made the monopoly a necessary evil no longer exist. So it’s time to take the monopoly apart. The monopoly, like a living thing, will fight for its life. Using any means, fair or foul, to continue its existence. This is natural and should be expected.

    But it does not remove from us the responsibility to take the monopoly apart. Such entities are bad for the overall well-being of our system of government and way of life. We must remember that the monopoly was created in a time that made it less bad than the alternative. Those times have passed and the monopoly must cease to exist.

    • Hiram

      “The ULA monopoly was tolerated in order to fulfill a need. The conditions within which that monopoly was created no longer exist.”

      I think that’s exactly right, and it’s the crucial lesson that comes out of all this. In 2005, there was simply no possibility of realistic competition for Delta and Atlas launch vehicles, so ULA was created to constitute a simple sole-source procurement vehicle for the federal government that would prevent costly battles and keep smiles on everyones faces. Technology development in launch vehicles would be controlled under one, and only one, management construct. It wasn’t about making better launchers than Atlas or Delta, but simply about making Atlas and Delta better. But the rules have changed.

      In some sense, that monopoly had real value a decade ago. It’s just somewhat perverse that, a decade later, many people can’t seem to see the handwriting on the wall (shall we say, fist-prints in the wall?) that the monopoly is not aging gracefully.

  • Jeff Foust

    Hey, folks, a reminder (once again) to keep comments on the topic of the post, and avoid attacks on each other. Thank you.

  • Byeman

    FUD? Dark Blue Nine
    Here is some in your post. F9 falls short of the performance of these vehicles too.
    - A5421: 3 launches
    - A5431: 2 launches
    - A5531: 3 launches
    - A5541: 2 launches

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