Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told reporters in Moscow today that Russian engines can be used only to launch civilian payloads, amid tensions over Russia’s support for separatists in Ukraine and the U.S. and European economic sanctions that have followed.
The Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines are used by United Launch Alliance LLC, a joint venture of top contractors Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and Boeing Co. (BA) that’s the sole supplier of rocket launches for the Pentagon. The engines power Atlas V rockets.
Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has sued the U.S. Air Force, claiming it created an illegal monopoly for the military’s satellite launch business.
SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, California, also contends that the contract with United Launch Alliance funnels money from American taxpayers to Russia’s military industrial complex and potentially to those under U.S. sanctions because of the Ukraine crisis.
Last week, U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Susan Braden lifted an order that temporarily blocked the Air Force from buying the Russian engines.