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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

Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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