October 2, 2015 / 3:48 PM / 4 years ago

ULA needs relief on Russian engines before GPS launch bid: CEO

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla./WASHINGTON (Reuters) - United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, on Friday said it would not bid in a U.S. Air Force competition to launch a GPS satellite unless it received some relief from a ban on use of Russian rocket engines.

ULA Chief Executive Tory Bruno told reporters in Cape Canaveral, Florida, that the company was seeking a partial waiver on trade sanctions enacted last year that ban U.S. military use of the Russian RD-180 engine that powers ULA’s primary workhorse Atlas 5 rocket.

Bruno said the company needed a decision on that issue before it could submit a bid for the GPS launch competition, which marks the first time in nearly a decade that launches of large U.S. military and satellites will be opened to competition.

The Air Force earlier this year approved privately-held Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to compete for some of the launches against ULA, which has been the monopoly provider for most Air Force satellite launches since its creation in 2006.

The Air Force issued a final request for proposals for the competition on Wednesday, and bids are due Nov. 16.

Bruno said he was encouraged that U.S. lawmakers had tackled the issue in a compromise version of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization or policy bill, giving ULA approval to use additional engines. President Barack Obama, however, has said he plans to veto the bill.

Reporting by Irene Klotz in Cape Canaveral and Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by Grant McCool

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