Just days after United Launch Alliance dropped out of the Pentagon’s competition to send satellites into space, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee accused the Boeing and Lockheed Martin joint venture of attempting to “manufacture a crisis” for military space launch.
“Recent attempts by the incumbent contractor to manufacture a crisis by prematurely diminishing its stockpile of engines purchased prior to the Russian invasion of Crimea should be viewed with skepticism and scrutinized heavily,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wrote in a Thursday letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss.
ULA’s dropping out of the Air Force’s GPS III Launch Services completion, a crucial phase of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, should not be “misconstrued” as a reason to undermine planned sanctions on Russia, McCain warned.
By bowing out, ULA made good on its threat to skip the competition unless it got relief from the Fiscal Year 2015 defense budget's ban on the use of Russian RD-180 rocket engines for military satellite launches after 2019. ULA, which relies on the Russian RD-180 rocket engine to power its Atlas V rocket, earlier this year begged the Defense Department for some relief from the ban, which was established in response to Moscow's annexation of Crimea last year. But the Pentagon refused.