With U.S./Russian relations as frosty as ever, it’s easy recall the days when the two super powers were locked in battle to conquer space. While interest in landing on the moon may have waned, Russia and the U.S. are still happy to trade blows about the size of each other’s rockets. Fortunately for entrepreneur and CEO Elon Musk that tension and a resulting injunction could mean a lucrative deal for Space X.
Space X, which manufactures rocket components, filed a bid protest in the United States Court of Federal Claims on April 28. The bid challenged a deal between the United States Air Force and United Launch Alliance (ULA) — a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing — which guaranteed the purchase of 36 rocket cores.
Space X took issue because the deal did not offer other equipment providers the ability to win the contracts. In a blog post, Space X said it is, “not seeking to be awarded contracts for these launches. We are simply seeking the right to compete.”
In addition to issues surrounding the selection of the vendor in the contract, Space X also pointed out that the ULA’s use components made in Russia benefited the country. Given recent comments from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who suggested that NASA “bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline,” since it could purchase parts under current sanctions, Space X’s point seems to have struck a chord.
On May 1, a Federal Judge issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting any purchases of Russian rocket engines for U.S. Air Force launches. While the injunction does not cancel any payments already made to ULA, it will freeze any future purchases as the Treasury Department seeks to determine if the component purchased from Russia fall under those currently under sanction.
Space X hopes that the freeze will allow it to complete certification for its Falcon 9 rockets, and then offer them to the Air Force if the ULA contract is renegotiated.
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