SpaceX handed loss in challenge over Air Force contract


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Automobile awards The golden steering wheel in Berlin

By Joey Roulette

(Reuters) – A federal judge plans to deny SpaceX’s challenge to U.S. Air Force contracts awarded to its rivals, writing in a Thursday court filing that the Pentagon properly assessed the development of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s Starship rocket system as “too risky and expensive.”

Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp in its year-long lawsuit had accused the Air Force of unfairly awarding development contracts to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and other competitors for new rocket systems in 2018.

But in a ruling that was briefly posted online by the court before being sealed, the judge found no wrongdoing by the Air Force in denying the company funds to help develop Starship, a fully reusable rocket system that Musk envisions will one day ferry humans to the moon and Mars.

Judge Otis D. Wright II gave the parties a week-long window to change his mind before entering judgment.

The Air Force did not immediately return a request for comment. SpaceX did not return requests for comment.

The awards served as seed investments in nascent rocket systems.

In August the Air Force awarded much bigger, multibillion-dollar launch contracts to SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing Corp (N:) and Lockheed Martin (N:).

SpaceX received a 40% share of missions to launch Pentagon payloads using its fleet of Falcon rockets, with ULA receiving a 60% share using its upcoming Vulcan rocket.

SpaceX that month opted to continue the lawsuit against the Air Force over the Starship bid, saying “substantial harm to SpaceX remains.”

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Musk is also CEO of electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc (O:). Blue Origin’s Bezos is CEO of Amazon.com Inc (O:).

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