Musk’s SpaceX sues US air force over the missile-building contracts: filings

ORLANDO, Florida. (Reuters) – Billionaire Elon Musk is SpaceX accused the U.S. air force, of the breaking of the contracting rules as the money awarded to three rocket makers, but passed on Musk’s rival bid, and said the offer must be reopened, according to a court filing unsealed on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: SpaceX headquarters is shown in Hawthorne, California, USA September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

In the complaint, Space Exploration Technologies Corp said the contracts were awarded for three “vacant, flew” rocket systems, which are not ready to fly under the government of the timeline, “the defeat of the very objectives as outlined by the Air Force program.

SpaceX asked the court to order the strength of the air force for the re-opening of the $2.3 billion Launch Service Agreements the competition and the review of the Hawthorne, California-based company’s proposal.

The agreement is part of a Department of Defense initiative to ensure a constant military access to space and curb the dependence on Russian-made RD-180 engines.

In the turning point in the race for dominance in the space industry, new entrants, including SpaceX and billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, are competing for the lucrative contracts for military launch services. The arena has long been dominated by established companies, such as Boeing Co.-Lockheed Martin Corp. United Launch Alliance (ULA).

ULA was awarded $967 million euro in the framework of the program for the development of its heavy-lift Vulcan rocket, Blue Origin won $500 million for its New Glenn missile, and Northrop Grumman Corp. was awarded with $791.6 million for the OmegA-missile development.

In a separate court filings this week, all three companies have argued they need the parties in the lawsuit because of their direct financial interest in the outcome.

A SpaceX spokesperson said that the company is sued to “ensure a level playing field for competition.”

Representatives for the air force and ULA not immediately respond to requests for comment. Blue Origin declined to comment.

SpaceX’s complaint was filed with the u.s. Court of Federal Claims last Friday, under the seal, together with a request for the court to order the proceedings secret under a protective order, specifying the confidential information. A redacted complaint was filed Wednesday.

SpaceX claimed the air force broke contracting rules on five different counts and asked the judge to halt the deliveries of the award to the three companies and the strength of a re-evaluation of the proposals.

The air force rejected a formal objection from SpaceX in April on the terms and conditions of the awards.

SpaceX has sued the government over contracts for, most prominently, in 2014, to protest against a multibillion-dollar, non-compete contract for 36 rocket launches to United Launch Alliance. It dropped the lawsuit after the Air Force agreed to the opening of the competition.

Reporting by Joey Roulette in Orlando, Florida; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Richard Chang

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