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FTC probe launched into antitrust satellite monopoly

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched an investigation into a Lockheed-Boeing joint venture which may be damaging competition through exclusivity agreements.

U.S. regulators say that the JV, United Launch Alliance (ULA), may be in breach of antitrust laws by "monopolizing" the services of RD Amross, maker of RD-180 engines for ULA rockets because of exclusive supply contracts.

ULA launches U.S. government satellites into space. According to industry sources, the firm prevents RD Amross from selling engines to other rocket manufacturers including Orbital Sciences, which stops rival companies from manufacturing suitable rockets and competing for lucrative government contracts.

The FTC investigation follows the unsuccessful efforts of Orbital to buy RD-180 engines for its new medium-lift Antares rocket. The company currently uses the AJ-26 engine, supplied by Aerojet, but there are only limited supplies available after production of the engine ceased.

ULA has confirmed the FTC probe and said it will comply with regulators. Spokeswoman Jessica Rye commented:

"ULA's contracts to purchase the RD-180 engine are lawful, pro-competitive and designed to provide the most reliable launch vehicle possible for critical U.S. government missions."

Read More: Reuters

Image credit: Flickr

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— By on June 12, 2013, 11:55 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure