Last April, SpaceX filed a lawsuit challenging the USAF’s sole-source block buy of 36 rocket cores from United Launch Alliance (“cores” meaning the main part of the rocket; nine of them are Delta IV cores intended for three Delta IV Heavies). They contended that it was illegal to not run the bid competitively (despite a notable lack of anyone else capable of competing at the time, and SpaceX’s own total lack of response to the original RFP in 2011), suggested the USAF wasn’t being fair to them (though the USAF was spending millions of taxpayer dollars on an accelerated certification process to allow SpaceX to compete for launches scheduled as early as 2017), and suggested that the use of RD-180 engines built in Russia was a violation of sanctions over the Crimea. Oh, and they filed it as a civil lawsuit in federal court, not a formal bid protest with the Government Accounting Office.
ULA had enough RD-180s already in stock to conduct launches scheduled through 2016, and of course it was no impediment to Delta IV anyway. (Only Atlas V uses the RD-180), but very shortly it was a non-issue; federal courts quickly ruled that the RD-180 did not violate sanctions as the proceeds did not go to any of the Russian officials targeted. But the rest of the lawsuit would have to go through the process.
And the next step of that process has now occurred. The US government has now responded with their side of the story, requesting dismissal by arguing that SpaceX isn’t qualified to pursue the lawsuit in the first place on the basis that since it failed to respond to the original RFP and wasn’t eligible for competition at the time anyway, it cannot be considered an interested party and cannot have suffered any economic damage.
Now we get to see how the Court responds to that.
Did anyone bring the popcorn? 😉 This is getting *good*.