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Elon Musk, SpaceX suing federal government for opportunity to launch spy satellites

"[Bulk buying] blocks companies like SpaceX from competing for national security launches," Musk told reporters.

By Brooks Hays
Elon Musk, SpaceX suing federal government for opportunity to launch spy satellites
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says the Air Force's contracting procedures are unfair. (UPI/Kevin Dietsch) | License Photo

WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) -- Elon Musk, the head of private space launch company SpaceX, told reporters his company is filing a protest against the contract procurement procedures of the Air Force via the Court of Federal Claims.

Specifically, Musk wants the Air Force to renege its current multiyear deal with United Launch Alliance (ULA) -- a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin -- to launch several national security satellites. Musk thinks the so-called "bulk buy" should be cancelled and launch opportunities offered up in a competitive bidding process.

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"[Bulk buying] blocks companies like SpaceX from competing for national security launches," Musk told reporters in a conference call on Friday. "We feel that this is not right. National security launches should be competitive and not sole-sourced."

Musk also questioned the fact that ULA's rockets feature Russian-made engines. "How is that we’re sending hundreds of millions in US taxpayer dollars to Russia?" he asked.

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Although SpaceX's planned complaint is technically a "protest," as the Washington Post reports, it carries the same weight as a lawsuit.

Jeff Foust, a space industry analyst and consultant at Futron, told Forbes he can't see the Air Force being pressured to give up their ULA deal, but said it might encourage great political pressure.

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"It may result in some more Congressional pressure on the Air Force to, if not undo the block buy, then to provide more launches that are open to competition," Foust explained.

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SpaceX has already launched several International Space Station resupply missions in cooperation with NASA. But this latest announcement is evidence of Musk's eagerness to expand business and compete for military contracts.

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