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U.S. Court Issues Injunction Prohibiting Russian Rocket Engine Purchases

Published: May 2, 2014 (Issue # 1808)



  • An Atlas V preparing for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in northern California.
    Photo: U.S. Air Force / Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Federal Claims Court has issued a preliminary injunction against United Launch Alliance, the producer of the Atlas V launch vehicle, prohibiting it from purchasing any additional Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines.

The injunction, published by the Washington Post on Thursday, prohibits the U.S. Air Force and United Launch Alliance, or ULA, "from making any purchases from or payment of money to NPO Energomash," the Russian state-owned company that produces the RD-180 engine for export and use in the first stage of the Atlas V rocket.

The injunction also prohibits any payment to entities "subject to the control of Deputy Prime Minister [Dmitry] Rogozin," pending relevant U.S. government approval. As noted by the injunction order, the Obama administration placed sanctions on a series of top Russian officials on March 16, Rogozin being one of the more prominent officials on the list.

However, the order does not apply "to any purchased orders that have been placed or moneys paid to NPO Energomash prior to the date of this Order," the injunction said. ULA currently has two years worth of RD-180 engines stockpiled, a precaution taken in the event of a Russian ban on export of the valuable engines.

The injunction comes two days after Space Exploration Technologies, more prominently known as SpaceX, filed a complaint against the U.S. Air Force accusing it of entering in to an unlawful contract with ULA — a joint venture between the Boeing Company and defence contractor Lockheed Martin — to purchase 36 Atlas V rocket cores in bulk.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also alleged that the Air Force contract may violate U.S. sanctions against Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is responsible for oversight of Russia's defense and space industries.

U.S. government actions against Rogozin were reinforced on Monday when the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control issued a "Specifically Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List" that carried three specific references to Rogozin. Additionally, the State Department expanded its export license restrictions on high-tech defense articles and services.

The Federal Claims Court, in light of these measures, found that "the public interest and national defense and security concerns" warranted the issue of a preliminary injunction prohibiting the purchase of additional RD-180 engines.

The decision to halt purchase of the engines comes at a time when many U.S. government and aerospace officials have begun to question the reliability of the RD-180 supplies as tensions between the U.S and Russia have risen to a crisis point over the latter's actions in Ukraine.

On Wednesday, lawmakers on Capitol Hill proposed legislation that would authorize U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to develop a domestic alternative to the RD-180 that would subsequently be made available to all interested U.S. launch providers, Reuters reported.

The authorization would mandate that development of the new engine be completed "no later than 2019."

However, industry experts and analysts are divided over the estimated time and financial commitment required for the U.S. to successfully complete work on an alternative to the powerful Russian engine.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Nov. 28


Join table-top game aficionados at the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test one’s intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only man’s best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during today’s reenactment titled “Winter War: How it Was.” More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie “Black Cat, White Cat,” as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of “Takoy Festival,” a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonight’s festival finale is “Fathers and Sons,” a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenev’s classic about familial relations.



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