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Ukraine crisis may give SpaceX a competitive advantage

Falcon 9 in flight
Falcon 9 in flight
NASA

According to a March 5, 2014 article in Business Insider, the recent Ukraine crisis provoked by a Russian military invasion of the Crimea has just given SpaceX a competitive advantage over its main rivals.

“Elon Musk said today that given Russia's invasion of Crimea, the U.S. should pay his company, SpaceX, for launch services into space, because his competitor uses a Russian engine in its rockets.

“Appearing before the Senate Committee on Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, Musk pointed out that United Launch Alliance (ULA), a 50-50 joint venture owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, uses an Atlas V expendable rocket, powered in part by a Russian-built RD-180 engine.”

By contrast the Falcon 9 uses an engine, the Merlin, that was designed and is built in the United States.

This assertion was disputed by the United Launch Alliance, which pointed out that it also uses the Delta IV launch vehicle. If the Atlas V became untenable due to the lost of Russian support, a ULA spokesperson claimed that payloads could be easily transferred to the Delta IV. Its engines are also made in the United States.