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Court: Air Force and ULA can buy Russian engines

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Posted: Thursday, May 8, 2014 9:37 pm

U.S. Judge Susan G. Braden on Thursday lifted the ban on the Air Force, United Launch Services and United Launch Alliance’s dealings with Russian engine maker NPO Energomash, finding that their dealings do not contravene U.S. sanctions against Russia.

Space Exploration Technologies, on the other hand, maintains that NPO Energomash is controlled by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is on the sanctions list.

Braden dissolved the preliminary injunction that she had issued April 30 based on the representations made in letters by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Department of State that while control by Rogozin, “if true” could be a potential basis to block NPO Energomash, it would require that the Department of the Treasury make an affirmative determination to trigger blocking and that no such determination has been made.

Braden directed the government to inform her immediately if it receives any indication that purchases from or payment of money to NPO Energomash by ULS, ULA, or the United Air Force will contravene the sanctions.

In a statement issued after Thursday’s court hearing, ULA said: “Sadly, SpaceX’s frivolous lawsuit caused unnecessary distraction of the executive and judicial branch and increased tensions with Russia during a sensitive national security crisis. SpaceX’s actions are self-serving, irresponsible and have threatened the U.S.’s involvement with the International Space Station and other companies and projects working with Russian State entities. We continue to hope that SpaceX will revisit their underlying lawsuit and the merits of their case.”

SpaceX, in its response to the government’s and ULA’s motions to dissolve the preliminary injunction, said that, “there should be little doubt that the Russian engines at issue come from an entity that operates in the Russian arms or related material sector and is controlled by or acts at least indirectly, if not directly, on behalf of Russian government officials, including Rogozin as an explicitly blocked official.”

SpaceX also noted that a quick visit to NPO Energomash’s own website speaks to the ongoing use of its rocket engines in military launch vehicles. “Indeed, just this week, Russia launched a spy satellite using an NPO Energomash-made rocket engine,” SpaceX said.

SpaceX added that if Treasury reviewed NPO Energomash’s activities, it would determine that it does operate in the arms sector in Russia, is controlled by a senior Russian government official, in which case dealings with Energomash would be prohibited.

While SpaceX had not requested the preliminary injunction, it pointed out that from the first moment the court raised obvious questions, the defendants attempted to raise technicalities in an effort to avoid the substance of the sanctions.

“Their most recent submission is no different,” SpaceX said.

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