SpaceX is suing the Air Force over the service’s latest Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle contract with United Launch Alliance—a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced Friday. The company is arguing the long-term contract, which guarantees the purchase of 36 ULA rocket cores, blocks other companies from competing for national security launches. “This exclusive deal unnecessarily costs U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars and defers meaningful free competition for years to come,” said Musk. “We are simply asking that SpaceX, and any other qualified domestic launch providers, be allowed to compete in the EELV program for any and all missions that they could launch.” Musk told lawmakers in March that SpaceX had completed the three launches required to boost Air Force payloads into orbit and was awaiting final technical certification. “We’re not battling the whole Air Force,” Musk said during a Friday press conference, reported Forbes. “We’re on very good terms with the vast majority of the Air Force. Our concern really relates to a handful of people in procurement.” Maj. Gen. Robert McMurry, head of space acquisition programs on the Air Staff, has said that seven launches between 2015 and 2017 will be open to outside companies. SpaceX’s official complaint, which will be filed with the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., will be available here on Monday, states the company release.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.