The Air Force and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) said Jan. 23 they reached agreement on a path forward in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) dispute between the two parties.
SpaceX agreed to dismiss its lawsuit against the Air Force over the service’s multi-billion dollar “block buy” award of 36 launch cores to incumbent launch provider United Launch Alliance (ULA). In return, the Air Force agreed to expand the number of competitive launch opportunities while honoring existing contractual obligations.
The Air Force will work collaboratively with SpaceX to complete the new entrant certification process in an efficient and expedient manner, according to a statement released by both parties. This effort will inform the review directed by Air Force Secretary Deborah James of the controversial new entrant certification process. The Air Force will also conduct future launch competitions consistent with the emergence of multiple certified providers.
Neither the Air Force nor SpaceX would say how many competitive launch opportunities would be added. Michael Listner, attorney and founding partner of Space Law and Policy solutions in New Hampshire, told sister publication Defense Daily Jan. 23 he believed the settlement was likely spurred by Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) ascension to the chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). McCain is a frequent critic of Boeing [BA], one half of United Launch Alliance. Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the other half.
“I’d say they both won,” Listner said. “Air Force kept the block buy intact and SpaceX chipped away at it and got a few more launches out of it. I’m sure you’ll see both sides saying they won.”