SpaceX — the spacecraft company owned by serial entrepreneur Elon Musk — is suing the U.S. Air Force over a huge government contract for rocket components that was awarded to Lockheed Martin and Boeing Co.
The official complaint is over the U.S. Air Force’s decision to award a long-term contract to launch future national security satellites to United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between the military’s two biggest suppliers, Lockheed and Boeing. The Air Force did so without entertaining competing bid from other private space companies, like SpaceX, according to the complaint.
“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 said in a statement on Friday.
Musk explained on Friday he isn’t suggesting the federal government should grant the launches to SpaceX rather than ULA, but that SpaceX and other domestic companies should be allowed to compete. He believes this competition would potentially save the government potentially a billion dollars.
Musk says SpaceX is not only capable of launching military satellites (they already have $US1.6 billion cargo resupply agreement with NASA) but that they would able to do it more cheaply than ULA. According to a statement from SpaceX, each launch by ULA costs taxpayers four times as much — around $US400 million per launch — as a launch by SpaceX would.
Musk also noted that the Lockheed-Boeing alliance uses Russian engines for its Atlas V rockets.
“In light of international events, this seems like the wrong time to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kremlin,” Musk said in the official complaint.
The official complaint from SpaceX should be available Monday, April 28 at www.freedomtolaunch.com.
In an email to Bloomberg, Mark Bitterman, a spokesman for United Launch Alliance, said the military’s “‘robust acquisition and oversight process'” and the company’s improved performance led to more than $US4 billion in savings compared with prior acquisition approaches.”
Matthew Stines, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force, said in an emailed statement that the Air Force had “no formal statement” on the lawsuit. “We received this information at the same time you did. We are waiting to see what happens.”
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