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.