A Boeing-Lockheed Martin venture that launches satellites for the U.S. military won an end to a ban on buying Russian rocket engines as a federal judge said she was satisfied the purchases don't violate sanctions on Russia imposed over Crimea's annexation.
U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Susan Braden in Washington, D.C. lifted the temporary ban Thursday, sidelining an issue raised in an April 28 lawsuit by Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies claiming the Air Force illegally shuts the company out of its launch business.
While SpaceX didn't ask Braden to block purchases of the Russian rockets, its court filings highlighted links between rocket-engine maker NPO Energomash and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who heads the country's defense and space industries and is subject to U.S. sanctions.
Braden, who brought up the sanctions issue herself, asked for the opinions of the Treasury, State and Commerce departments regarding the rocket sales. The Treasury Department's sanctions unit reported to the judge that transactions with NPO Energomash "currently do not directly or indirectly contravene" sanctions against Rogozin.
The Justice Department and the Boeing Co.-Lockheed Martin Corp. joint venture, called United Launch Alliance, asked Braden to lift the injunction.
The information Braden received makes clear that the relationship "complies with the sanctions against Russia," Jessica Rye, a spokeswoman for ULA, said in an e-mailed statement.
Emily Shanklin, a spokeswoman for SpaceX, didn't immediately reply to an email requesting comment.