[SatNews] SpaceX is filing a legal challenge to the U.S. Air Force’s latest Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) contract with United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
The long-term contract, which guarantees the purchase of 36 rocket cores from ULA to be used in national security launches, was granted to ULA on a sole-source basis without any competition from other launch providers. SpaceX is seeking the right to compete for some of these same launches.
“This exclusive deal unnecessarily costs U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars and defers meaningful free competition for years to come,” said Elon Musk. “We are simply asking that SpaceX and any other qualified domestic launch providers be allowed to compete in the EELV program for any and all missions that they could launch.”
EELV is the fourth largest procurement program in the entire Department of Defense (DoD) budget, and it has been plagued by significant and sustained cost breaches. DoD officials have reported that EELV has exceeded its original estimated per unit cost by 58.4 percent. Each launch by ULA costs American taxpayers roughly $400 million per launch—four times as much as a launch by SpaceX. SpaceX currently provides launch services for NASA as well as numerous commercial customers and is ready and able to reliably provide launch services at an estimated cost savings of 75 percent.
Additionally, ULA’s launch vehicle, the Atlas V, uses the RD-180 engine—an engine of Russian design and manufacture produced only in the Russian Federation. The company that produces the RD-180, NPO Energomash, is majority owned by the Russian Federation. The head of the Russian space sector, Dmitry Rogozin, was sanctioned by the White House in March 2014 in the wake of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
“In light of international events, this seems like the wrong time to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kremlin,” said Elon Musk. “Yet, this is what the Air Force’s arrangement with ULA does, despite the fact that there are domestic alternatives available that do not rely on components from countries that pose a national security risk.”
SpaceX is seeking a legal determination that would open certain launches under the sole-source contract to competition. The official protest document will be available Monday, April 28th, at http://www.freedomtolaunch.com/ and will be filed with the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C.
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