Even before the first robotic satellite servicing mission is launched, there have been two — count ’em, two — robotic satellite servicing lawsuits.
Space Systems/Loral is suing rival Orbital ATK over an alleged theft of proprietary data and business plans for an in-space satellite servicing technology, according to a complaint filed on Thursday.
The lawsuit is the second in six weeks involving the companies and their efforts to start a new industry servicing and repairing satellites in orbit.
At least four confidential SSL documents were viewed and distributed by an Orbital ATK employee working at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where the data is stored as part of an ongoing SSL partnership with the U.S. space agency, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia….
SSL, a subsidiary of Canada-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., said it was informed of the data breach by NASA in December 2016.
Orbital acknowledged the unauthorized access of SSL’s data and fired the employee, but did not respond to questions about the scope of the breach or about five other Orbital employees whom NASA said may have read the SSL documents, the lawsuit said.
By Steven Siceloff, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
A supply spacecraft set to carry thousands of pounds of experiments and equipment to the International Space Station will also carry the name John Glenn, Orbital ATK said Thursday during a ceremony dedicating the mission to the first American to orbit the Earth.
In announcing its plan to send two people around the moon using the Falcon Heavy and Dragon 2 in 2018 before NASA can do so using its own rocket and spaceship, SpaceX paid tribute to the space agency that has funded its rise.
“Most importantly, we would like to thank NASA, without whom this would not be possible,” SpaceX said in a statement. “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, is a key enabler for this mission.”
NASA funding has been behind Elon Musk’s company every step of the way as SpaceX has developed Dragon and the Falcon 9 booster upon which the Falcon Heavy is based. So, no NASA and, in all likelihood, no SpaceX.
The Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation: 2017 Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST)
2016 Launch Events
Space launch activity worldwide is carried out by the civil, military, and commercial sectors. This section summarizes U.S. and international orbital launch activities for calendar year 2016, including launches licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST). Countries and jurisdictions worldwide that possess functional and operating indigenous launch industries are the United States, Russia, China, European Union, India, Japan, Israel, Iran, North Korea, and South Korea. Several other countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and Indonesia, are developing launch vehicle technologies.
The Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation: 2017
Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST)
State of the Payload Industry
Space industry companies and organizations worldwide, sometimes the same as launch vehicle manufacturers but also those specifically dedicated to spacecraft manufacturing, produce these spacecraft. Commercially launched payloads are typically used for the following mission types:
Commercial communications satellites;
Commercial remote sensing or Earth observation satellites;
Commercial crew and cargo missions, including on-orbit vehicles and platforms;
Technology test and demonstration missions, usually new types of payloads undergoing test or used to test new launch vehicle technology; and
Other commercially launched payloads, usually satellites launched for various purposes by governments of countries not having indigenous orbital launch capability.
The Expedition 50 crew is gearing up for three different spaceships in two months to resupply the International Space Station. The crew also worked today on a variety of research hardware and practiced an emergency drill.
LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (USAF PR) — The Space and Missiles Systems Center has awarded a sole-source contract for Space Test Program Satellite 6 (STPSat-6) payload integration services to Orbital ATK, Feb. 3. The STPSat-6 spacecraft will be the primary payload on the STP-3 mission expected to launch no earlier than June 2019.
The STPSat-6 integration services contract includes: payload integration, spacecraft bus modification, and test of the space vehicle. The contract also requires technical support services including SV-to-launch vehicle integration, launch preparation and execution, and on-orbit support.
Orbital ATK has filed a lawsuit against DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program, arguing that it competes with its own Mission Extension Vehicle program.
Under the public-private partnership envisioned by DARPA, an industry partner would eventually be able to profit from RSGS by offering robotic satellite servicing to commercial and government entities. Meanwhile, the government would be able to buy those services at a reduced price.
But Orbital ATK says that the program violates the National Space Policy, which states that the government should not subsidize space-related activities that private entities are willing to invest in on their own. The company has been developing its own servicing vehicle, the Mission Extension Vehicle, has already booked Intelsat as its first customer and is set for a 2018 launch.
“The U.S. National Space Policy explicitly directs government agencies to avoid funding activities that are already in development in the commercial marketplace,” the company said in a statement. “Orbital ATK will continue to pursue all available options to oppose DARPA from moving forward with this illegal and wasteful use of U.S. taxpayer dollars.”
DARPA declined to comment on pending legal action, but has been adamant that its program does not flout U.S. space policy. In a Feb. 3 letter to Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., DARPA acting director Steven Walker said the agency had conducted a review of the program, as requested by the lawmaker.
“We believe the program is consistent with the 2010 National Space policy,” Walker wrote.
Four members of Congress have sent letters to DARPA asking the defense agency to review a satellite servicing program they believe duplicates other efforts by a commercial company and NASA.
“We are concerned that DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellite (RSGS) program is duplicating commercial investment and capability in violation of National Space Policy and contrary to the best interests of taxpayers,” reads one letter signed by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA).
The Space Angels Network has been lobbying against an amendment to the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would allow greater use of excess ICBM motors for commercial satellite launches. The network says the measure would benefit one company, Orbital ATK, whose Minotaur line of boosters uses these motor, at the expense of an emerging commercial small-satellite launch industry.
The use of ICBM motors are liimited to launches where commercial alternatives are unavailable. The amendment would remove that restriction.
A letter the network sent to the Senate Armed Services Committee is reproduced below.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2016, NASA drove advances in technology, science, aeronautics and space exploration that enhanced the world’s knowledge, innovation, and stewardship of Earth.
“This past year marked record-breaking progress in our exploration objectives,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We advanced the capabilities we’ll need to travel farther into the solar system while increasing observations of our home and the universe, learning more about how to continuously live and work in space, and, of course, inspiring the next generation of leaders to take up our Journey to Mars and make their own discoveries.” (more…)
Although NASA’s Earth Science Division is substantially meeting stakeholder’s needs for Earth observation data, the space agency has fallen behind on launching an ambitious series of missions planned out nearly a decade ago, according to an Office of Inspector General (IG) report released last month.