8 May 2014, 12:05

US asks court to lift ban on Russian rocket engine purchases

US asks court to lift ban on Russian rocket engine purchases

A US court prohibited United Launch Alliance, which is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, from using Russian rocket engines on May 1. "United Launch Alliance is prohibited from trading with Russian engine manufacturer NPO Energomash," the ruling of the court says. However, the ruling isn't applied to contracts and purchases made up to that date.

The ruling was issued after a private company SpaceX filed a lawsuit. It claimed that the US Air Force handed over a contract to United Launch Alliance, which buys rocket engines from Russia, without conducting a tender. Sanctions imposed by the US against Russia because of the situation in the Crimea became a formal ground for SpaceX to apply and make a case in court. In particular, SpaceX thinks that the purchase of Russian engines might violate sanctions against Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of Russian defense industry.

However, the US Department of the Treasury and the US Department of State assure that the sanctions against Rogozin don't affect the deals for buying Russian rocket engines.

The contract signed by United Launch Alliance with Russian-American Company "RD-Amros" stipulates that Russia provides the US with 36 "RD-18"rocket engines. The court's ruling is partially based on the appeal of the US Congress to design American rocket engine that will work on fuel. However, companies such as Orbital Sciences that also uses Russian rocket engines were against this.

The Pentagon said earlier that it would reconsider the use of Russian rocket engines "RD-180" in Atlas launch rockets because of the Ukrainian crisis. Vladimir Solntsev, Chief Executive of NPO Energomash, said last August that stopping the supply to the US could lead to the shutting down of the venture.

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