SpaceX launches new legal battle against U.S. Air Force

2019/05/Musk-at-NRO-879x485-1558564279.jpg
Read: 966     11:53     23 May 2019    

A lawsuit filed May 17 by SpaceX against the U.S. government was made public on Wednesday. In the 79-page redacted bid protest, SpaceX challenges the U.S. Air Force’s Oct. 10 decision to award development contracts to its competitors and exclude SpaceX.


SpaceX’s bid protest with the Court of Federal Claims challenges the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s decision to deny SpaceX a Launch Service Agreement contract as “arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law.”

The Air Force awarded LSA cost-sharing contracts to Blue Origin ($500 million), United Launch Alliance ($967 million) and Northrop Grumman ($762 million) to help the companies defray the costs of meeting the government’s unique launch requirements for the upcoming launch procurement competition known as National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement.Without LSA funds, SpaceX is required to bear the brunt of those costs on its own. In the redacted portions of the complaint, SpaceX includes what it estimates those cost would be, such as the construction of a payload integration facility at the Eastern Range launch complex. The figures were redacted.

A company spokesperson in a statement to SpaceNews says SpaceX “respectfully disagrees with the Air Force’s LSA award decision. While we support the Air Force moving forward with its Phase 2 acquisition strategy for national security space launches as currently planned, we are formally challenging the Air Force’s LSA decision to ensure a level playing field for competition.”

The bid protest lays out in detail the reasons why SpaceX believes the court should declare that the LSA award decision “violates the requirement competitive procedures.” It also asks the court to suspend further LSA investments by the government and reevaluate SpaceX’s proposal.

The entire complaint is a harshly worded condemnation of the Air Force’s criteria for selecting launch providers and is especially critical of what SpaceX contends is an institutional bias toward longtime launch provider ULA. Since it emerged as a contender in the launch market a decade ago, SpaceX has sought to challenge ULA’s dominance. In 2013, SpaceX sued the Air Force over its decision to award ULA a bulk purchase of launches instead of allowing competitive bids for the work.

In the current complaint, SpaceX argues that with its LSA decision, the Air Force “chose the portfolio that best served the needs of ULA, the long-standing incumbent, by awarding an LSA to ULA and an LSA to each of the two offers that are currently developing major components for ULA’s system.”

Blue Origin is developing the BE-4 engine for its own New Glenn rocket and for ULA’s Vulcan Centaur. Northrop Grumman makes solid rocket boosters that will be used to power its own OmegA launch vehicle and to augment the Vulcan rocket.

The lawsuit says ULA, Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin proposed only conceptual rockets whereas SpaceX has proven commercially viable vehicles. For the first time, SpaceX discloses that its LSA proposal included a portfolio of vehicles, the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, in addition to the still-in-development Starship deep space exploration vehicle.

SpaceX offered Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy “for the vast majority (if not all) the manifested Phase 2 RFP missions and the developmental Starship for missions scheduled to launch in 2025 or after,” says the complaint. SpaceX argues that it proposed the “least risky” approach for assured access to space and to end reliance on Russian rocket engines currently used by ULA’s Atlas 5. Nevertheless, the Air Force gave SpaceX’s bid a ”high risk” rating for its ability to launch the larger category C payloads.

The protest points out that Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy to date have launched more than 70 national security, civil and commercial missions.

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SpaceX launches new legal battle against U.S. Air Force

2019/05/Musk-at-NRO-879x485-1558564279.jpg
Read: 967     11:53     23 May 2019    

A lawsuit filed May 17 by SpaceX against the U.S. government was made public on Wednesday. In the 79-page redacted bid protest, SpaceX challenges the U.S. Air Force’s Oct. 10 decision to award development contracts to its competitors and exclude SpaceX.


SpaceX’s bid protest with the Court of Federal Claims challenges the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s decision to deny SpaceX a Launch Service Agreement contract as “arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law.”

The Air Force awarded LSA cost-sharing contracts to Blue Origin ($500 million), United Launch Alliance ($967 million) and Northrop Grumman ($762 million) to help the companies defray the costs of meeting the government’s unique launch requirements for the upcoming launch procurement competition known as National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement.Without LSA funds, SpaceX is required to bear the brunt of those costs on its own. In the redacted portions of the complaint, SpaceX includes what it estimates those cost would be, such as the construction of a payload integration facility at the Eastern Range launch complex. The figures were redacted.

A company spokesperson in a statement to SpaceNews says SpaceX “respectfully disagrees with the Air Force’s LSA award decision. While we support the Air Force moving forward with its Phase 2 acquisition strategy for national security space launches as currently planned, we are formally challenging the Air Force’s LSA decision to ensure a level playing field for competition.”

The bid protest lays out in detail the reasons why SpaceX believes the court should declare that the LSA award decision “violates the requirement competitive procedures.” It also asks the court to suspend further LSA investments by the government and reevaluate SpaceX’s proposal.

The entire complaint is a harshly worded condemnation of the Air Force’s criteria for selecting launch providers and is especially critical of what SpaceX contends is an institutional bias toward longtime launch provider ULA. Since it emerged as a contender in the launch market a decade ago, SpaceX has sought to challenge ULA’s dominance. In 2013, SpaceX sued the Air Force over its decision to award ULA a bulk purchase of launches instead of allowing competitive bids for the work.

In the current complaint, SpaceX argues that with its LSA decision, the Air Force “chose the portfolio that best served the needs of ULA, the long-standing incumbent, by awarding an LSA to ULA and an LSA to each of the two offers that are currently developing major components for ULA’s system.”

Blue Origin is developing the BE-4 engine for its own New Glenn rocket and for ULA’s Vulcan Centaur. Northrop Grumman makes solid rocket boosters that will be used to power its own OmegA launch vehicle and to augment the Vulcan rocket.

The lawsuit says ULA, Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin proposed only conceptual rockets whereas SpaceX has proven commercially viable vehicles. For the first time, SpaceX discloses that its LSA proposal included a portfolio of vehicles, the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, in addition to the still-in-development Starship deep space exploration vehicle.

SpaceX offered Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy “for the vast majority (if not all) the manifested Phase 2 RFP missions and the developmental Starship for missions scheduled to launch in 2025 or after,” says the complaint. SpaceX argues that it proposed the “least risky” approach for assured access to space and to end reliance on Russian rocket engines currently used by ULA’s Atlas 5. Nevertheless, the Air Force gave SpaceX’s bid a ”high risk” rating for its ability to launch the larger category C payloads.

The protest points out that Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy to date have launched more than 70 national security, civil and commercial missions.

Space News



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