Barack Obama - Elon Musk
President Barack Obama tours the commercial rocket processing facility of Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, along with Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Thursday, April 15, 2010. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Musk’s SpaceX to sue over Lockheed-Boeing launch monopoly

Elon Musk’s space company will sue the U.S. Air Force to protest a Lockheed Martin Corp.-Boeing Co. team’s monopoly on Pentagon satellite launches, the billionaire said Friday.

“These launches should be competed,” he told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington. “If we compete and lose, that is fine. But why would they not even compete it?”

Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is trying to break the joint venture’s lock on U.S. military satellite launches, which have an estimated value of $70 billion through 2030. He has said competition in that market may save taxpayers more than $1 billion a year.

“This contract is costing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars for no reason,” said Musk, who earlier today made a presentation at the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s annual conference.

The Air Force was notified today, Musk said. The suit will be filed Monday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, said Ian Christopher McCaleb, senior vice president at Levick, a public relations firm representing SpaceX.

Certifying SpaceX will depend on more than three successful launches, the service has said. Technical reviews and audits of the proposed rockets, ground systems and manufacturing process also are needed, according to the Air Force.

Musk, also chairman and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc., told U.S. lawmakers last month that the Lockheed- Boeing venture’s Atlas V rockets uses engines from Russia, posing supply risks following the country’s invasion of Crimea in Ukraine.

The U.S. and Europe have been considering a possible expansion of sanctions against Russia.

Pentagon officials have asked the Air Force to review whether the use of Russian engines from the venture, called United Launch Alliance LLC, poses a national security risk.

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