Treasury, State Back Air Force, ULA in RD-180 Purchases

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The U.S. State and Treasury departments say there is no reason that U.S. dealings with a Russian rocket engine maker should be stopped because of the current U.S. sanctions regime.

In letters submitted to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims May 6, the departments said that U.S. purchases from or payments to NPO Energomash do not violate an executive order issued by the Treasury Department in March sanctioning Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, a senior Kremlin official who oversees Russia's space and defense industries.

Backed by the letters, the U.S. government has asked the court to dissolve a preliminary injunction that bars it from buying RD-180 engines used to power the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket from Russia's NPO Energomash.

The letters upend claims by Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) that the government should prove payments made by the U.S. Air Force through its primary launch services provider to NPO Energomash do not benefit Rogozin.

Last week, SpaceX filed a protest with the court in an effort to open up a contract between the Air Force and ULA under the service's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The complaint relies heavily on the allegation that the majority of EELV launch vehicles use RD-180 rocket engines manufactured by NPO Energomash, “a corporation owned and controlled by the Russian government,” according to the company's April 28 filing.

Although the court has yet to rule on SpaceX's complaint, Judge Susan Braden issued a preliminary injunction April 30 stopping the U.S. Air Force and ULA from making any purchases from or payment of money to NPO Energomash or any entity subject to Rogozin's control until the Commerce, State and Treasury departments certify that they do not directly or indirectly contravene the executive order sanctioning him.

Treasury and State go so far as to say that even if such ties were discovered, Treausry would have to make an “affirmative determination” that such purchases or payments to NPO Energomash violate the current sanctions regime, setting an even higher hurdle than simply establsihing a link between the rocket engine maker and Rogozin.

“As of today, no such determination has been made with respect to NPO Energomash,” Smith asserts. “Therefore, to the best of our knowledge, purchases from and payments to NPO Energomash currently do not directly or indirectly contravene” U.S. sanctions.

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

on May 7, 2014

If Aerojet/Rocketdyne has 2 years supply of engines what is the big hurry to buy batches of these engines for the 36 core buy? How much can the cost go up until the time the SpaceX is certified and the contract can correctly be put out for bid instead of sole source? If SpaceX only gets awarded one of these launches then the savings in that one launch contract would most likely offset any additional costs that ULA might incur by waiting a few months before contracting with the Russians to buy more engines.

on May 8, 2014

Dear dbrevetti@mitre.org!
I am sorry to state an obvious but Delta-IV stage I propulsion is based on US-made Liquid Propellant Engines. Assuming that 9 core would be Atlas-V first stage and 3x9=27 core would be Delta-IV first stage, ULA has to purchase 18 RD-180 engines...

on May 8, 2014

A R could tool up faster than any of you know and are quite capable of producing whatever is needed to compete against Elon Musk. Compared to the innovation resident at AR, Elon is still in the honeymoon stage with the media. Look out below when they switch their opinion.

on May 9, 2014

It is hilarious to the tears those US sanction..towards Ruskie, this is best part and best proof to which extent every single thing which is do US government is pure hypocrisy "In letters submitted to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims May 6, the departments said that U.S. purchases from or payments to NPO Energomash do not violate an executive order issued by the Treasury Department in March sanctioning Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin," What? Energomash wass tell them that this time Rogozin wouldn't get his money like one of CEO's of that same Energomash good joke...no my dear Super Man in this mater simply, estimated damage for U.S will be higher than is acceptable, sanction was planed to be harmful for Ruskie not for US(as).) and in that sense by pure law of "exceptionality" this time , that engine will be imported (f..k the sanction isn't bible)

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