Late Wednesday evening, a United States Court of Federal Claims granted SpaceX’s request for an injunction to prevent US-based companies from buying RD-180 rocket engines for use in government space launches. The injunction specifically applies against the United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed-Martin that provides unmanned rocket launch services to NASA and other US government agencies (the injunction’s full text is available here).
At a press conference last week, SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk accused the United States government of entering into improper and uncompeted launch agreements with private contractors that in turn are purchasing rocket engines from Russia. Musk feels that SpaceX’s rockets can do the same job at a far lower cost but that the launch contracts were simply awarded to the ULA without SpaceX being given the opportunity to prove its capabilities. “We’re just protesting and saying these launches should be competed,” said Musk at the press conference. “And if we compete and lose, that’s fine, but why were they not even competed?”
Wednesday’s injunction comes in response to a complaint filed by SpaceX on April 28, wherein the company’s lawyers formalized Musk’s complaints and requested that the government intervene. The complaint goes further, stating not only that the launches were unfairly “sole sourced” (that is, granted to a single company without giving others the opportunity to bid on or compete for the work) but also raising concerns about the source of the rocket engines used for many of the launches:
Musk complained a few weeks ago about ULA getting a government contract from NASA without Space-X being able to compete. In fact, it was secretly awarded without competition. Space-X could do the same thing for 4-fold less. So he sued.
Now he has won an injunction against ULA to prevent them from using Russian rockets. Kind of brilliant. He would not have been able to do much before sanctions were put on Russia. Now, due to Obama’s Executive Order, he can slow down the alliance.
It may eventually get lifted but a nice example of being resilient and adaptive.
An example of a 21st century company orhganized around distributed democratic principles being able tomove rapidly against hierarchical authoritarians.