May 8, 2014 – The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has lifted the preliminary injunction against United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) purchase of RD-180 engines. Letters submitted by U.S. Departments of State, Treasury and Commerce explicitly state that ULA’s supplier and partner, NPO Energomash, is not subject to any of the current sanctions against Russia and that ULA’s continued purchase of the RD-180 does not directly or indirectly contravene the sanctions.
The injunction came in response to a complaint filed by SpaceX founder Elon Musk on April 28. The complaint charged that the majority of ULA’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles use RD-180 rocket engines manufactured by NPO Energomash, a corporation owned and controlled by the Russian Government.
ULA is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed-Martin that provides unmanned rocket launch services to NASA and other U.S. government agencies. ULA’s Atlas V rocket uses the Russian RP-1 powered RD-180 engines in its first stage.
Although the preliminary injunction was based on the sanction issue, Elon Musk also accused the United States’ government of entering into improper and uncompeted launch agreements with private contractors. In a press conference at the end of April, Musk stated that his company’s rockets can do the same job at a lower cost, but that the launch contract had been unfairly awarded to ULA.
“We’re just protesting and saying these launches should be competed,” said Musk. “And if we compete and lose, that’s fine, but why were they not even competed?”