SpaceX vs. Boeing and Lockheed Lawsuit Dismissed

by Braddock Gaskill

A US District Court this week has dismissed all anti-trust claims brought by SpaceX against Boeing and Lockheed-Martin.

The court concluded that SpaceX “is not yet ready to compete with the Defendants in the EELV market. Because it lacks such readiness, its speculative claims regarding future harm are not ripe.”

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On Monday, the court held the first brief hearing in the anti-trust lawsuit since it was filed last October.  SpaceX had alleged a history of anti-competitive behavior by Boeing and Lockheed, and claimed that they had conspired to lock out any possible competition in the US military launch market. 

Boeing and Lockheed had both protested in turn that SpaceX, which has not yet successfully launched even its first small rocket, could not show direct injury, and moved to dismiss the case.

Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the District Court of the Central District of California heard the case Monday, and largely agreed with Boeing and Lockheed, citing that ‘injury must be real and immediate rather than conjectual or hypothetical. 

The mere possibility of future injury does not confer standing, and allegations that amount to nothing more than speculation regarding future injury are insufficient.’ 

At the hearing, SpaceX attempted to argue that the anti-trust Clayton Act that serves as the basis for its claims is forward-looking, and doesn’t require actual past injury. 

However, Judge Cooper concluded that until SpaceX is in a position to compete in the EELV-class launch market, that its claims are still too immature.

As a final measure, SpaceX asked for leave to amend their complaint. While Judge Cooper was skeptical that an amended complaint would be able to ‘overcome the constitutional deficiencies that plague its claims’, she did permit SpaceX 20 days to file an amended complaint that could reopen the case.

Both the anti-trust case and SpaceX delays are likely playing a factor in the Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) review of the proposed Lockheed and Boeing merger of Atlas V and Delta IV production and operations under the new United Launch Alliance (ULA). 

The FTC was originally slated to provide approval for the merger last fall, but has been delaying with monthly requests for more information. 

Although the exact cause of the delay is unclear, the FTC is required to look into any civil violation of the Sherman Act, one of the charges alleged by SpaceX in their filing last October. 

Now that case is, for the moment at least, closed, it will be one less obstacle to FTC approval of the ULA.




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