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SpaceX Wins Injunction Against Russian Rocket Purchases

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the oh-elon-please-don't-do-this dept.

Government 166

Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Reuters is reporting that Space Exploration Technologies, aka SpaceX, has won a Federal Claims Court temporary injunction against the purchase by United Launch Alliance of Russian-made rocket boosters, intended for use by the United States Air Force. In her ruling Judge Susan Braden prohibited ULA and the USAF, 'from making any purchases from or payment of money to [Russian firm] NPO Energomash.' United Launch Alliance is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin."

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where did hitler get all of his support? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46889989)

media weapons armies banks,,, hard to imagine he acted alone

Re:where did hitler get all of his support? (1, Troll)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 6 months ago | (#46890095)

media weapons armies banks,,, hard to imagine he acted alone

Hey, man! Don't Godwin capitalism.

Why are you hater on the FREE MARKET? :-)

Re:where did hitler get all of his support? (2)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 6 months ago | (#46890241)

>Hey, man! Don't Godwin capitalism.

That's what Goebbels said to Hitler in 1933.

dark matters; hard to remember history (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890245)

nazi zion WMD on credit free land freeloader religious cabalism is not new http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hitler+support+system

Re:dark matters; hard to remember history (1)

INT_QRK (1043164) | about 6 months ago | (#46890797)

"nazi zion WMD on credit free land freeloader religious cabalism"???? Is this from a random word generator?

Re:dark matters; hard to remember history (1)

Amtrak (2430376) | about 6 months ago | (#46891077)

Clearly he's search engine trolling.

Oh how the mighty have fallen (5, Interesting)

Powys (1274816) | about 6 months ago | (#46890037)

It's a wonder that all the government spending on Lockeed and Boeing they have been unable to produce a viable engine themselves. They do have a huge lobbying force, so I doubt this is over yet.

Re:Oh how the mighty have fallen (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | about 6 months ago | (#46890173)

This case turns the usual defense procurement bugaboo on its head.

Re:Oh how the mighty have fallen (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 6 months ago | (#46890815)

This case turns the usual defense procurement bugaboo on its head.

Not really.
This decision won't stand. The DOD will not let some meddlesome judge stand in the way of a security need, and friendlier judges will quickly overturn it. (It was a temporary injunction anyway).

Look people, this is just to get their (Air Force's) attention. It isn't going to be a permanent thing, by simply making headlines it has served its purpose. (Note that the Russian's will probably block the sale anyway soon).

DOD will promise to revise the bidding, they may also tell Pratt and Whitney to start manufacturing these engines in western countries (P&W bought the license to do this a long time ago, but it was never economic to do so in the past). This isn't particularly difficult tech to build when all of the plans and specs are already in US hands due to long existing licensing deals.

But mostly, the purpose was an attention grab, to demonstrate how stupid it is to encourage US companies to develop lift capabilities and then turn around and buy Russian made engines on a sole source contract.

Re:Oh how the mighty have fallen (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890893)

Note that the Russian's will probably block the sale anyway soon

You left out the thing that belongs to a Russian. His vodka? His fur hat?

Re:Oh how the mighty have fallen (1)

icebike (68054) | about 6 months ago | (#46891037)

I save my best editing for people who pay me.

Re:Oh how the mighty have fallen (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46891881)

You get paid? You must suck a mean dick!

Re:Oh how the mighty have fallen (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46892591)

This isn't particularly difficult tech to build when all of the plans and specs are already in US hands due to long existing licensing deals.

The RD-180 is a staged combustion LOX/RP-1 rocket engine with an oxygen rich pre-burner. Until the 1990s Oxidizer-rich staged combustion had been considered by American engineers, but deemed impossible. [wikipedia.org]
It is particularly difficult tech. To get the metallurgy and the coating right to withstand pressurized hot oxygen isn't simply a matter of plans and specs. It's about experience.
It's far from impossible but it will take a lot of money and time to produce a reliable RD-180 eninge in the US.

Re:Oh how the mighty have fallen (3, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | about 6 months ago | (#46890267)

Unable? This is about maximizing profit, not ability. They looked into domestic production of this engine and decided to save the billion or so dollars. Looking at this court decision, they may have made the right decision if they get stuck competing with a lower-cost provider of launches.

I'm not sure that SpaceX will prevail in the short term. Ostensibly, the reason the military is willing to pay the Alliance so much is they can't insure their satellites, so they need a very reliable launch vehicle instead. Perhaps SpaceX will prove to be very reliable, but they aren't there yet.

Re:Oh how the mighty have fallen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890881)

These guys are getting a premium payment explicitly because they are domestic launchers and claim to be able to get all of this stuff done without depending upon other countries to provide critical national security launch services. The ULA President, before Congress and under oath under penalty of perjury, boldly proclaimed that his company could continue to fly their rockets (specifically the Atlas V) even if there was a total embargo from Russia on an indefinite basis.

It turns out he was wrong. So much for an oath of telling the whole truth. He can't even plead ignorance on this matter as well.

The Delta IV definitely has American engines, but that is also considerably more expensive to fly as well.

I agree that it is about maximizing profits, but then again if that was the case why didn't they simply start flying payloads on Soyuz launchers.... just as the ESA is doing in South America?

Re:Oh how the mighty have fallen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46891229)

They are able to build their own engines, it is just cheaper (for everyone) to buy them from the russians. ULA aren't worried, because they have enough engines in the back room to fill orders while ULA gets their manufacturing up.

By the way, these engines are really big. It is a bit weird to see cryllic writing under the hood of an American rocket though.

Yeah, right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46891873)

I keep hearing this, but I find it difficult to believe that with all the flagrant corruption going on in Russia, it wouldn't be cheaper to build them domestically (unless the corruption is even worse here).

Hot order (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46892047)

"ULA aren't worried, because they have enough engines in the back room to fill orders while ULA gets their manufacturing up."

ULA has a two year supply and just sold 5 years worth to the military. As if that weren't fun enough, Boeing & Sierra Nevada had planned on using that rocket for their crewed spacecraft launches to ISS. I hope they aren't in a hurry.

Re:Oh how the mighty have fallen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890923)

or just steal the design from Russia. Its how Russia would do it if tables were reversed.

steal the designs (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46891367)

If it was just about the designs would could steal any number of them from ourselves (50 years of rocket engine designs to choose from). The issue appears to be the ability to manufacture, which we seem to have lost and would require time & money to restart. All that is except for SpaceX, they appear to build their engine in house. The Merlin engine is a bit less efficient than the RD-180 but its the most efficient hydrocarbon engine developed in the US.

Re:steal the designs (1)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | about 6 months ago | (#46891559)

And after the last launch it appears to be the most re-useable engine ever developed.

Re:Oh how the mighty have fallen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46892347)

Funnily enough, when it comes to rocket engines it's one area where Russia and the old USSR went their own way.

Apparently it was the right decision, given that America are buying Russian engines these days.

Re:Oh how the mighty have fallen (1)

I will be back (3119157) | about 6 months ago | (#46891669)

Spending money on lobbying has a better return than on R&D

Re:Oh how the mighty have fallen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46892519)

When you can't compete on merit, go to court.

Re:Oh how the mighty have fallen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46892809)

When you can't compete on merit, go to court.

The point is that they were never given the chance to compete on merit.

Wow. (4, Funny)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about 6 months ago | (#46890051)

Guess those Russian trampolines aren't so good after all.

Why (5, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 6 months ago | (#46890143)

The summary doesn't mention anything about "WHY" they made this ruling or why there was a lawsuit in the first place.

USAF awarded Russia a no-bid contract on 36 rocket boosters. SpaceX filed suit requesting consideration for the contract. The court filed an injunction to prevent sales being made while the trial moves forward.

Re:Why (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890325)

Looks like some Airforce brass won't be getting their retirement payout from Russia.

Re:Why (1)

zzottt (629458) | about 6 months ago | (#46890355)

Thank you for the better explanation.

Re:Why (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890415)

Aerospace is a decades old pile of pork and graft. Contracts are awarded to whoever can bribe congress critters the best.

SpaceX can make some noise here. There's probably a lot of cold war era laws regarding requirements for defense projects to be US manufactured.

I mean really. Cheap imported Russian rockets resold by a cold war era aerospace dinosaur vs an all-American entrepreneur company?

Re:Why (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 6 months ago | (#46890901)

I mean really. Cheap imported Russian rockets resold by a cold war era aerospace dinosaur vs an all-American entrepreneur company?

Russian rocket engines. The rest of the rocket is manufactured in America, but the engines (arguably the most critical part though) is made in Russia.

Re:Why (3, Informative)

Last_Available_Usern (756093) | about 6 months ago | (#46890529)

To be clear, USAF awarded ULA (United Launch Alliance, jointly run by Boeing and Lockheed) the uncompeted contract. What this prevents is ULA from making purchases from Russia for parts, which essentially cripples their entire contract since the Russian parts included the first-stage engine I believe. Without that, ULA doesn't have a functional rocket as far as I can tell. I'm sure ULA will find an intermediary who will "just happen" to have some of these engines laying around that they can then use to fulfill the contract. The bigger question is whether the contract as a whole will be recompeted, as it should.

Re:Why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890683)

ULA "just happens" to have a two-year supply of the rockets "laying around". They don't buy them on short lead times right before the launch.

Re:Why (1)

icebike (68054) | about 6 months ago | (#46890935)

The contract will probably be re-opened, and this temporary injunction is mostly aimed at doing just that.

DOD will not let it stand in the way of their mission critical launches.
When security critical payloads need to be put in orbit this ruling goes away without a whimper.
To paraphrase Joseph Stalin: "How many divisions does the Court of Federal Claims have?"

DOD and Launch Alliance has nothing to worry about from the Court or from SpaceX. They SHOULD be worried about Putin.

Re:Why (5, Interesting)

jafac (1449) | about 6 months ago | (#46891003)

The ULA boosters are Lockheed's Atlas V (with the Russian RD-180 engine), and the Boeing Delta IV (which, I believe uses the Rocketdyne RS-68).

However, Boeing has pulled the Delta IV from the market, so there will be a limited number of these launched in the future.

I think that Boeing's decision was one of the reasons that prompted the launch-services merger. The RS-68 was expensive to develop, (and expensive to fly; part of that was the choice to use hydrogen+LOX, instead of kerosene+LOX like the RD-180) - and they weren't making enough profit on the launches, and were ready to bail from the market entirely; while Lockheed's decision to use the RD-180 saved them money - it made them the only player in the medium/heavy launch market.

One thing about the Delta IV; is that it had capabilities that Atlas does not have, like in-air restarts, better reliability, more accurate payload delivery. Don't get me wrong, I think that both vehicles have their merits. The market will suffer with the loss of the Delta IV; and hopefully SpaceX can help, but SpaceX's goal is going to be cheaper launches, and it remains to be seen whether Falcon can deliver any of those features. (the other question about Falcon, is whether they can deliver the Heavy Lift capability which is a HUGE gap right now. Both Atlas and Delta have flown in "heavy" configurations - both of which are essentially "hacks" - but no worse than Ares was going to be).

Re:Why (3, Insightful)

ChinggisK (1133009) | about 6 months ago | (#46891695)

However, Boeing has pulled the Delta IV from the market, so there will be a limited number of these launched in the future.

Got a citation on that? Last I heard there was no definitive plan to end the Delta IV program, in fact it would be insane considering Atlas' precarious engine situation.

Re:Why (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 6 months ago | (#46891199)

I think it is funny to no end for SpaceX to bring out the Obama administration executive orders about prohibiting purchase of parts or supplies from Russia.... and in particularly prohibiting any sort of renumeration toward Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin by name.

Re:Why (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 months ago | (#46891737)

The bigger question is whether the contract as a whole will be recompeted, as it should.

Like hell it should. SpaceX was late to the party, and like everyone else should wait for the next round.

Re:Why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46892123)

ULA already has a reserve of engines. It's rumored to last them for the next two years.

Re:Why (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46892159)

"ULA doesn't have a functional rocket as far as I can tell."

ULA still has the Delta 4 which is domestically built. As with anything environmentally friendly (LH2/LOX), it is stupidly expensive.

Re:Why (2)

zuckie13 (1334005) | about 6 months ago | (#46890961)

Let's get this factually correct at least: USAF awarded United Launch Alliance (ULA), a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed, a no-bid contract on 36 rockets. Of those, some will be an Atlas-V (Lockheed Made) , and some will be a Delta-IV (Boeing made). Only the Atlas uses the Russian made Engine (called an RD-180 over here), the rest of that rocket is made here. The Delta uses an different engine (RS-68), which is made here. This injunction would prevent buying only engines and only for the Atlas first stage.

International space hug (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 months ago | (#46890171)

It was great in theory. The difference between theory and practice being...

Re:International space hug (3, Funny)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#46890281)

It was great in theory. The difference between theory and practice being...

Cookies, a 5th of scotch, an angry monkey, a pack or Marlboros, and a really fast car?

Or ... is that just me?

Re:International space hug (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 6 months ago | (#46891569)

Shoot! A fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.

-- Slim Fuckin' Pickens, man!

Re:International space hug (2)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 6 months ago | (#46890505)

The cold war restarted when Putin weaseled in, but the west didn't want to recognize it.

Re:International space hug (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 6 months ago | (#46891135)

Must not be hitting the "Reset" button hard enough.

Re:International space hug (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 6 months ago | (#46892585)

The Cold War never ended b'cos the State Department was too lazy to allow for new ground realities in Eastern Europe and North Asia. Once Putin became president, the Russians joined the fight, which until then was being waged from just one end.

Russian Rocket Motors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890215)

Isn't it odd that US military assets are being launched (at least partially) by Russian hardware? Its especially odd when there is an obvious company that (presumably) manufactures almost all (except probably for electronics) their components here in the US. They're also the only company apparently at least trying to move forward with designs into making space cheaper & easier. I think the workhorses of the ULA (Atlas & Delta) area almost 50 years old with only minor updates & component switches, mostly due to the fact that the old hardware is no longer manufactured.

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890263)

Why? You were allies in WWII. History moves along. Why can't you?

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (1)

tehdaemon (753808) | about 6 months ago | (#46890455)

Maxim 29: "The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy. No more. No less."

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890599)

Odd that you talk about history but you ignore the Cold War which happened between us AFTER WWII. In any case countries generally don't rely on other countries for anything relating to national defense. While we've been friends, and hopefully BOTH countries will pull their collective heads out of the dark places which they have shoved them and become friends again, countries will, and probably should, continue to keep some aspects of their resources & capabilities in their home countries.

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890877)

Odd that you don't get that history is just that: history. Move. On. Also, if we're such a united species to colonize the universe, your playground mentality of "I got my marbles, fuck you" doesn't help.

1) Grow up.
2) Move on.

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46891665)

Tell that to Putin

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (3, Funny)

WhiplashII (542766) | about 6 months ago | (#46891683)

3) Take over Ukraine

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 6 months ago | (#46892673)

Since when is Crimea == Ukraine?

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46891857)

Using Russian rocket engines (like reprocessing Russian uranium for nuclear fuel) is a great way to deprecate their nuclear weapon launch capability
The Russians get cash, we get resources and in the long run they limit their ability to launch an attack

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (1)

icebike (68054) | about 6 months ago | (#46890953)

Why? You were allies in WWII. History moves along. Why can't you?

History also moves backward. Where have you been for the last several months?

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#46891245)

History also moves backward.

I'm pretty sure history moves forward, but people move backward.

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 6 months ago | (#46890445)

Odd also considering Obama's lame ass sanctions on Russia for their Ukraine incursions. Then again, maybe this is the key note item of 'lame ass' sanctions: buying rockets from someone you are berating for violations of a treaty between Russia and other western countries, made to respect Ukraine borders after Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons. I wonder if Russia would be willing to trade off their incursions by selling Ukraine those idle boosters to allow Kiev to re-nuclear weaponize themselves. A little detente could go a long way.

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (0, Flamebait)

Immerman (2627577) | about 6 months ago | (#46890845)

In farness, what justification would we use to sanction Russia? They're executing a relatively bloodless land grab reclaiming old territory that has an ethnic Russian majority who is being openly abused by the Ukranian government. We have a memorandum of understanding (not even a treaty) with the Ukraine that requires us to lodge a formal complaint with the UN if nuclear weapons are used against it.

We on the other hand have recently laid claim to Iraq, an area in which we have no historic, ethnic, or ethical interest. The only difference is we installed a puppet government instead of claiming it outright. And that we did it at the cost of hundreds of thousands of civilian lives.

The invention of nuclear weapons created an uneasy peace for a time, but we can't expect that peace to perpetually maintain an arbitrary homeostasis with national boundaries forever locked at the position they were when nukes were invented. Especially when a lot of those boundaries were laid in place as land-grabs by the winners. Israel anyone? Yeah, don't mind us, we're just going to take this chunk of what's been your land for a millenium, including your most sacred religious sites and your entire Mediterranean sea border, and give it to a bunch of our allies who happen to also have a major axe to grind against you. Your team lost the war, so Suck It Up. We like hamstringing your economy and having a strong military base in the middle of your territory.

Personally I'd rather see those borders redrawn today, in as civil a means as possible, than to have those old festering wounds still present by late century when global warming will start putting real pressure on things. War is likely to come regardless, but I suspect it will be far uglier if politicians have lots of old resentment to draw on to motivate their troops.

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 6 months ago | (#46890965)

an ethnic Russian majority who is being openly abused by the Ukranian government.

Er, what?

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 6 months ago | (#46891041)

Have you not paid any attention to the internal politics in Ukraine in the last year?

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46891923)

Have you not been limiting your input to RT and ignoring the rest of the world press?

If you watch RT you will realize the V Putin is the savior of the world and doing bold and masculine things to allow Russia to reclaim their place in the firmament

erm... or something like that...

maybe RT is propaganda, but most Russians will never know because they do not believe anything else

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46891149)

It was gifted to Ukraine in 1954 by Khrushchev.

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (1)

TomGreenhaw (929233) | about 6 months ago | (#46891337)

I'll be darned - google ethnic makeup of Crimea and you'll see 58% Russian and 24% Ukranian...

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 6 months ago | (#46891173)

The justification is "we warned them not to". As soon as it became our position that "we oppose a Russian invasion of Crimea", Obama had an obligation to back his words up.

The sanctions offered did nothing but weaken our credibility and our position. We would have done better to not get involved to begin with, rather than to offer lame, half-hearted, impotent opposition.

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 6 months ago | (#46891691)

In farness, what justification would we use to sanction Russia? They're executing a relatively bloodless land grab reclaiming old territory that has an ethnic Russian majority who is being openly abused by the Ukranian government.

Of that ethic majority, only a minority wants to be part of Russia. Even in the recent polls, support for breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia has never exceeded 30%.

Furthermore, journalists who refer to the Russian-coordinated forces "separatists" have been threatened by said forces and ordered to start calling them "supporters of federalization" instead. One can assume that for Russia, the best outcome is not a "land grab" (which would impose a considerable financial burden on the Russian state), but rather keeping the area nominally part of Ukraine and using it to keep the country unstable and out of NATO.

Personally I'd rather see those borders redrawn today, in as civil a means as possible, than to have those old festering wounds still present by late century when global warming will start putting real pressure on things.

Redrawing borders doesn't not solve underlying problems. I am writing from a country whose borders were redrawn along ethnic lines after World War I, in a process that everyone at the time considered civil and fair, and it was to bring us nothing but problems over the course of the 20th century.

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about 6 months ago | (#46892029)

What nation had its lines redrawn along ethnic lines? I'm drawing blank on that one. Poland, along with the Polish corridor was drawn with large German populations in the borders. The same thing happened with a lot of the baltic nations, like Czechoslovakia, which was one of casus belli Hitler used for his early aggressions.

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (0)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 6 months ago | (#46891869)

Guess you missed the part about an international treaty being signed between Russia and Ukraine and many other parties to recognize Ukrainian borders, not invade it, etc. in turn for Ukraine getting rid of its nuclear weapons. Russia violated that treaty when they invaded Crimea, and even admitted doing so. And now there is the 'militant commander' piece of shit in eastern Ukraine who admits he came from Crimea along with most of his other cohorts dressed in plain Russian combat uniforms and balaclavas. Only a retard would try to claim they aren't Russian special forces. You lose the argument.

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46892031)

Guess you missed the part about an international treaty being signed between Russia and Ukraine and many other parties to recognize Ukrainian borders, not invade it, etc. in turn for Ukraine getting rid of its nuclear weapons.

The Budapest Memorandum was not a treaty. A memorandum is considered a step below a treaty, and it is understood that it relies mainly on the goodwill of the parties involved.

Re:Russian Rocket Motors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46892447)

Ah ha, the old 'my fingers were crossed' trick. I don't see how it being a memorandum instead of a treaty means we shouldn't be sanctioning Russia.

Innovation vs rent-seeking (-1, Redundant)

benjfowler (239527) | about 6 months ago | (#46890279)

SpaceX are fantastic, world-class innovators, but lobbying the government to tilt the playing field their way smacks of rent-seeking.

I think there are potential parallels between Elon Musk and Richard Branson here. Both are lauded as Galtian supermen and heroe entrepreneurs; but at least in Richard Branson's case, he is an expert at conning governments into handing him extremely lucrative (government protected and subsidized) monopolies, as anybody who's had the misfortune of getting brutally arse-raped on a Virgin Trains season ticket (£6,000 from Milton Keynes to Euston, last time I looked), can testify.

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (3, Informative)

jonnythan (79727) | about 6 months ago | (#46890331)

Um, no. The Air Force gave Russia the contract with zero bidding process. SpaceX literally never had a chance. They're suing for a level playing field where they could bid against Russia in an open process.

The rest of your post is...... well.

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (1)

icebike (68054) | about 6 months ago | (#46891015)

Russia was not given a contract. Check your facts.

Boeing and Lockheed got the contract.
The US (NASA and Air Force) has been buying and using these motors since forever.

The US licensed the technology (Pratt and Whitney), and could build them stateside any time they want. Its just been cheaper to buy them in Russia from the original manufacturers.

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 6 months ago | (#46891051)

There's more to this than the cloying meme "level playing field". In this case there's legitimate foreign policy issues -- the US buys agreeability from foreign governments via contracts for cold, hard western cash, not just foreign aid.

Depending on the framework Congress laid out, this could be an unconstitutional infringement on the legislative and executive branches,, the latter of which is constitutionally charged with foreign policy.

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (5, Insightful)

hublan (197388) | about 6 months ago | (#46890395)

SpaceX are fantastic, world-class innovators, but lobbying the government to tilt the playing field their way smacks of rent-seeking.

You're confused. It's called levelling the playing field. What the USAF did was sign a no-bid contract with the Boeing/Lockheed to purchase Russian rocket engines. A huge no-no in the public sphere, if not illegal. The only way to get them to reverse on that was to go to court.

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (4, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | about 6 months ago | (#46891095)

You're confused. It's called levelling the playing field. What the USAF did was sign a no-bid contract with the Boeing/Lockheed to purchase Russian rocket engines. A huge no-no in the public sphere, if not illegal. The only way to get them to reverse on that was to go to court.

It isn't wrong to do sole source contracts as a public entity. I did them when I was working for a state agency several times. The big thing is that you need to demonstrate convincingly (and be willing to back that up in a court room if necessary... like SpaceX is trying to call the bluff here with regards to ULA and the USAF) that the company you are sole sourcing is really the only company which could possibly provide the project being desired.

There are a couple of ways to get that to happen, and one of common methods (IMHO it really is corruption at its finest) is to over specify the technical requirements in such a way that one and only one company could possibly present a bid. For example with a computer, you could require that the computer has certain non-standard connectors, be very specific with an operating system (especially an off-beat OS like QNX), monitors have a 63.224 Hz screen refresh capability (or some other really weird number like this), and other details that exclude anybody else. You can reject any other potential bids simply because they failed to meet the original specification.

That is essentially what ULA has done here with regards to their rocket purchases, and SpaceX is crying foul by pointing out their rockets are just as capable to put up many of the same payloads reliably as well. Once the Falcon Heavy has launched a few times (its first launch may be this year or early next year), SpaceX will literally be able to launch anything ULA has with its inventory of rockets. There are other companies like ATK-Orbital that could conceivably be able to compete as well at least for some of these payloads.

The analogy would be some state college putting out for bid a bunch of Mac computers, and some PC dealer filing protest suggesting their products are just as capable for the applications being done at the college. The Apple dealer would point out that specialized software excludes the PCs, and the finger pointing goes on from there in the protest.

Indeed I think Elon Musk and his lawyers are going to bring up Orbital several times if this goes before a courtroom basically saying "it isn't just us".

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about 6 months ago | (#46891677)

I think where your explanation and analogies fall apart is that no bids were ever done. The problem isn't with a sole-source contract (every individual launch is a sole-source contract) but with an uncompeted sole-source contract. Nobody else was even given an opportunity to try to meet the requirements, over-specified or otherwise.

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (1)

crunchygranola (1954152) | about 6 months ago | (#46892617)

His explanation also falls apart about the over-spec'd trivialities.

A PC OS vs a Mac OS is a major difference in how the computer behaves, what software you can run on it. Such a requirements difference in a RFQ could easily be sustained.

An arbitrary monitor refresh rate cannot be shown to be a functionally meaningful requirement. A contract with such a provision would be laughed out of court if a losing bidder were to challenge it. If a bid request is steered to one vendor without a substantial, valid reason it is illegal.

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (1)

GeoMAR (3553417) | about 6 months ago | (#46890425)

I think you have it the wrong-way around. SpaceX aren't seeking any favors, they can deliver significant savings to the US government. However, the lobbying by Boeing and Lockheed Martin have allowed them to push through a huge long term agreement using old expensive technology to help exclude cheaper more innovative rivals like SpaceX (who weren't even considered). There needs to be much greater oversight of government contracts to ensure that certification processes etc are simplified to the greatest possible extent to reduce barriers to entry and encourage smaller companies like SpaceX to bid for contracts like this to prevent the taxpayer from being exploited by the likes of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890429)

And to add to the parallels, in both cases the companies are protesting a flawed bidding process.

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (1)

damnbunni (1215350) | about 6 months ago | (#46890463)

They don't want the government to tilt the playing field their way.

They want to be allowed onto the field at all.

The contract in question was no-compete. There was no bid. The USAF just said 'We're gonna buy some rockets from these guys over here. We're not even considering anyone else.' And SpaceX said 'WTF? Hey judge, shouldn't people be able to compete for this contract?'

And the judge apparently thinks that idea has enough merit to block the no-compete sale while it's thoroughly investigated.

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (2)

Guspaz (556486) | about 6 months ago | (#46891731)

And the judge apparently thinks that idea has enough merit to block the no-compete sale while it's thoroughly investigated.

That's not at all what happened. The judge did not consider or rule on the merits of the contract at all, nor did the judge block or directly interfere with that contract. The judge considered that ULA intends to buy Russian engines from an individual on the sanctions list, which could be illegal. As such, the injunction is limited to forbidding the purchase of the engines until the proper authorities can decide if the purchases would be sanction violations.

The rest of the contract is (so far) free to move forward, using existing Russian engines already in ULA's possession (they claim to have a two-year supply).

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890699)

SpaceX are fantastic, world-class innovators, but lobbying the government to tilt the playing field their way smacks of rent-seeking.

What part of "no bid contract" do you not understand? They are only seeking opportunity to bid on the contract.

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (1)

mojo-raisin (223411) | about 6 months ago | (#46890875)

rent-seeking is what the car dealers are trying to do to Tesla.

You are one very confused fud spreader.

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46891045)

You are a complete fucking idiot.

Re:Innovation vs rent-seeking (1)

hey! (33014) | about 6 months ago | (#46891679)

You are a complete fucking idiot.

Sounds like a recipe for happiness.

Free market? USA says "lol no" EOF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890359)

see subject

Re:Free market? USA says "lol no" EOF (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 6 months ago | (#46890743)

I don't think anything involving a government producing things for its military can really be classed as "free market". There are different ways of structuring the production, some of which do have more market involvement than others. E.g. the USAF could produce its own equipment, it could bid some out to contractors, and it could use various processes for doing so. But with exactly one buyer, which is a government, and to make things worse a government's military arm (which introduces all kinds of clearance issues), it doesn't look a lot like a market.

Re:Free market? USA says "lol no" EOF (1)

crunchygranola (1954152) | about 6 months ago | (#46892721)

I don't think anything involving a government producing things for its military can really be classed as "free market".

"Free market" as it is bandied about today has no defined meaning within economics - it is a general concept, usually employed as a political slogan. As Investopedia says Just like supply-side economics, free market is a term used to describe a political or ideological viewpoint on policy and is not a field within economics. [investopedia.com] .

It is in the government's interest to introduce market forces into its acquisition system to create competition, and efficiency incentives, and avoid cronyism. This is what the bidding process does.

New Motto (1)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | about 6 months ago | (#46890449)

From "Ad astra per aspera" to "Ad astra per embargo" apparently.

As long as you ignore the facts. Re:New Motto (2)

clay_buster (521703) | about 6 months ago | (#46890761)

They aren't asking for an embargo. They are asking for a competition.

And this has nothing to do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46890465)

with the ongoing sanctions against Russia.

Re:And this has nothing to do... (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about 6 months ago | (#46891757)

Other than the fact that the ruling is specifically and exclusively about the ongoing sanctions against Russia, it has nothing to do with the ongoing sanctions against Russia. Right. That makes sense.

What good timing (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | about 6 months ago | (#46891497)

Just as Russia resurrects the Solvet holiday of May Day

http://www.theguardian.com/wor... [theguardian.com]

Re:What good timing (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about 6 months ago | (#46892139)

May day isn't a soviet holiday, it's originally an American Holiday for American unions.

To quote the almighty wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H... [wikipedia.org]

The Haymarket affair (also known as the Haymarket massacre or Haymarket riot) refers to the aftermath of a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on Tuesday May 4, 1886, at Haymarket Square[2] in Chicago. It began as a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for an eight-hour day and in reaction to the killing of several workers by the police, the previous day. An unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they acted to disperse the public meeting. The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians; scores of others were wounded.

The Haymarket affair is generally considered significant as the origin of international May Day observances for workers.[7][8] The site of the incident was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1992,[9] and a public sculpture was dedicated there in 2004. In addition, the Haymarket Martyrs' Monument at the defendants' burial site in nearby Forest Park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.[10]

"No single event has influenced the history of labor in Illinois, the United States, and even the world, more than the Chicago Haymarket Affair. It began with a rally on May 4, 1886, but the consequences are still being felt today. Although the rally is included in American history textbooks, very few present the event accurately or point out its significance," according to labor studies professor William J. Adelman.[11]

Re:What good timing (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | about 6 months ago | (#46892267)

Apparently you did not live through the cold war. It is traditionally the Workers Day, yes, but the parade was of a military nature as well.

Not a good sign they are returning to the USSR ways.

Next the Gulags will reopen, and maybe a good old fasioned Stalinist purge too?

Re:What good timing (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 6 months ago | (#46892681)

It's a generic Spring Festival event. Maypoles, Whitsun and all sort of other "Oh look - It's sunny" events predate the cold war, haymarket and other modern stuff by hundreds and thousands of years.

As with Easter, Christmas and the solstices, the dates aren't relevant, they just take a ride on existing festivals.
 

Re:What good timing (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 6 months ago | (#46892687)

May day isn't a soviet holiday, it's originally an American Holiday for American unions.

America isn't the only country to have May day. In fact it's rather late to the party.

Calling them on the rhetoric (4, Informative)

Erich (151) | about 6 months ago | (#46892231)

My understanding is that ULA gets paid lots and lots of money to maintain two independent launch vehicles, the Atlas V and the Delta IV. That way if one of the rockets is grounded for some reason, space access is still available.

ULA prefers Atlas V because it is more profitable for them. But it uses engines from Russia.

The Russian engines are purchased from a company with ties to one of the people targeted by US sanctions against Russia... so the judge has granted the injunction to prevent purchasing those Russian engines.

ULA has a stockpile of some Russian engines already, and they have the (less profitable for them) Delta IV if they can't launch Atlas V for any reason... and running out of engines would be one of those reasons. But ULA would prefer to continue buying engines. But we've been paying them to have both rockets available, so they'd better be able to show up with what they've promised.

Separate from this injunction, SpaceX is asking for a review of the large block by of ULA cores, as it was done just before (a few days before) one of the final milestones of SpaceX being qualified to launch for the air force. I think it's not unreasonable for them to say that it's unacceptable to do a huge purchase when if you wait for a few days you would have multiple vendors competing for the bid.

Even John McCain thinks that contract smells fishy: link [dodbuzz.com]

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