UPDATE 2-Pentagon denies Russian rocket engine waiver for Lockheed-Boeing venture
(Adds SpaceX declined to comment, details on engines affected by ban)
By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON Oct 9 (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Friday declined to waive a U.S. law banning the use of Russian rocket engines for military and spy satellite launches, rejecting an urgent request from United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.
ULA, the monopoly provider of such launches since its creation in 2006, has said it needs the waiver to compete against privately held Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or SpaceX, in a new U.S. Air Force competition for satellite launches. Bids are due for the competition by Nov. 16.
The U.S. Defense Department said it would continue to monitor the situation, and was looking at a range of options, including possible sole-source contract awards, to keep both companies in business and ensure more than one supplier was available in the event of failures.
Prompted by Russia's annexation of Crimea last year, U.S. lawmakers banned the use of Russian RD-180 rocket engines for military and spy satellite launches after 2019.
ULA and SpaceX declined to comment on the decision.
Pentagon spokeswoman Lieutenant Commander Courtney Hillson said the department remained committed to maintaining two sources of launch services. But she said its approach could evolve, given market conditions, a desire to move away from the Russian RD-180 rocket engine as soon as possible, and the possibility that only one competitor could survive in the U.S. space launch market.
She said the Pentagon also remained committed to competition as a way to control cost "to the maximum extent possible." Continuación...