21st Century Wire says…
Where does the diplomatic theater end and economic reality begin?
This past summer, 21WIRE reported that Russia had delivered two RD-181 engines to the US Orbital Sciences Corporation for its Antares rocket under a $1bn contract – a contract signed despite several rounds of Western-imposed sanctions and the big controversy over a US ‘dependency’ on Russia for America’s “national security” (NSA tracking) space satellite launches.
What’s weirder, is that the whole basis of the current US-led sanctions against Russia is because some folks back in the late summer of 2014 believed that Russia were responsible for the downing of flight MH17. Coincidence? Bizarre, one might say.
“On July 16 the first two engines were delivered to the US,” Russian rocket producer Energiya (NPO Energomash) said in a press release on Tuesday, RIA reported.
Yet, only this week, the Pentagon announced it would not grant space firm United Launch Alliance (ULA) a trade sanctions waiver to bypass a congressional ban on Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines needed for its new GPS III national security satellite.
Due to this ‘sanctions’ ban on ULA, their rival firm, SpaceX, headed by billionaire Elon Musk, is now in pole position to win that Pentagon contract, and the rockets supplied for SpaceX contract are meant to come (a bit later, because they’re not even close to being ready yet) from Blue Origin – run by Musk’s fellow billionaire and internet (and now Washington Post media) mogul Jeff Bezos.
The result of this game in Washington – is that for now anyway – there will be no new state-of-the-art GPS III satellite until the rockets are ready (who knows for sure?).
How is it that some firms, like US Orbital Sciences Corporation, are allowed to buy Russian rocket engines – while others, like ULA, are not? Moreover, how come no one in the corporate media has managed to pick-up on this glaringly inconsistent and highly fungible Congressional-Pentagon-State Department policy?
Welcome to Washington’s brave new billionaire playground – a Silicon Folly where geopolitics and golden handshakes distort the “free market”…
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket streaks into the cloudy sky from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Oct. 2 in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
The Pentagon announced Friday that it would not grant the United Launch Alliance a waiver allowing it to bypass a congressional ban on Russian-made engines that the company has said it desperately needs to compete in the multibillion-dollar national security launch market.
ULA, the joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing that had a monopoly on national security satellite launches for a decade, had pleaded with the Pentagon for a waiver that would allow it to use more RD-180 engines to power its Atlas V rocket.
The company has four of the engines in its inventory that it could use for national security launches, ULA chief executive Tory Bruno recently told reporters. But he said ULA needs at least 14 to compete to launch national security payloads, such as spy and communications satellites, before it is able to use a new, American-made engine it is developing with Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
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