SpaceX and U.S. Air Force Reach Agreement

The United Launch Alliance recently launched the third Mobile User Objective System satellite for the United States Navy. ULA has successfully launched more than 90 satellites to orbit. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

The United Launch Alliance recently launched the third Mobile User Objective System satellite for the United States Navy. ULA has successfully launched more than 90 satellites to orbit. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

January 23, 2015 – The U.S. Air Force and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) have reached agreement on a path forward for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program and SpaceX has agreed to drop its lawsuit challenging contracts previously awarded to United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Centennial.

Billionaire Elon Musk filed the legal challenge in April 2014 claiming that the U.S. Air Force had unfairly awarded the EELV contract to ULA without considering any of its competitors.

ULA has delivered more than 90 satellites to orbit, and the long-term contract was for a block-buy of 36 rocket cores from ULA to be used in national security launches. SpaceX was seeking the right to compete for some of these same launches, even though they have not completed the required launch certification process.

Under the terms of the new agreement, the Air Force will work collaboratively with SpaceX to complete the certification process in an efficient and expedient manner. Going forward, the Air Force will conduct competitions consistent with the emergence of multiple certified providers.

The new agreement will broaden the competitive landscape of the EELV program, while maintaining mission assurance for national security launches. The Air Force has expanded the number of competitive opportunities for launch services under the EELV program, but will honor its existing contractual obligations with ULA.

Per the settlement, SpaceX will dismiss its claims relating to the EELV block buy contract pending in the United States Court of Federal Claims: Space Exploration Technologies Corp. v. U.S., 14-354, U.S. Court of Federal Claims (Washington).

The EELV program was established by the United States Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.