Orbital ATK Sued Over Satellite Servicing Venture

orbital_ATK_logoSpaceNews reports on the latest litigation in satellite land:

Orbital ATK is facing a lawsuit from its former partner in the ViviSat satellite servicing venture, claiming Orbital improperly shut down the joint venture to pursue the servicing business on its own.

In a suit filed April 29 with the Supreme Court of the State of New York, U.S. Space LLC alleges that Orbital ATK violated the terms of a management agreement regarding operations of ViviSat to take control of the company and dissolve it in April, a maneuver U.S. Space called in court filings “a double-cross of cosmic proportions.” The lawsuit was first reported by the legal publication Law360.

U.S. Space and ATK Space Systems created ViviSat in 2010 to develop and commercialize a satellite servicing system later known as the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV). Under the original teaming agreement, ATK was primarily responsible for technical development of the MEV, while U.S. Space was responsible for financing and business development.

ATK supplied about $3 million through March 2013 to fund ViviSat’s operations, according to court papers. However, when ViviSat said in late 2012 that it needed an additional $200,000, ATK requested an amendment to the management agreement that would tie the funding to business development milestones.

The revised agreement, signed in April 2013, included an “amendment trigger” that would effectively give control of ViviSat to ATK, including three of four seats on its board of directors, if ViviSat didn’t achieve those milestones. That agreement also allowed the ViviSat board to dissolve the company by a majority vote.

The dispute involves whether VivaSat met the milestones in time. Orbital ATK says the suit is without merit.

Editor’s Note: This is a fine story that digs into the details of the lawsuit. My only question is: where has SpaceNews been for the last six months since the Virgin Galactic-Firefly litigation became public?

It’s a helluva story involving some rather explosive claims by two major NewSpace companies. Firefly would be effectively put out of business by a rival if Virgin wins. The lawsuit certainly qualifies as news every bit as much as the VivaSat lawsuit. Yet, it hasn’t merited a single story by the leading space news website. It’s disappointing.

ViviSat Looks to Move Forward on Satellite Servicing

Some good news for fans of satellite servicing:

The long since thought of but yet to be commercialized in-orbit servicing industry is now closer to becoming a reality than ever before. ViviSat, a joint venture supported by Orbital ATK and US Space, has signed a pivotal customer for its Mission Extension Vehicles (MEVs), tipping the scale from buildup to actual implementation.

“We now have four MEV’s signed with clients. That puts us in a situation where we have the critical mass necessary for financing and to carry forward,” Bryan McGuirk, COO of ViviSat said during the “Spacecraft Repurposing Debate: Proponents and Skeptics Go Head-to-Head” panel at SATELLITE 2015.

As of the summer of 2014, ViviSat had three customers committed to in-orbit servicing using MEVs, with the driving rationale being to test out new orbital slots for future satellites. McGuirk said three of the four clients intend to use the MEVs to provide this service.

Now that a decisive number of customers has been reached, ViviSat plans to begin dual launching two MEVs at a time, with missions lasting five years at a time before the end of the decade. MEVs have a mission lifespan of approximately 16 years and sport longer antennas and arrays to better dock with spacecraft. The vehicles also use electric propulsion.

Read the full story.