DULLES, Virginia 11 September 2017 (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced significant progress on the industry’s first commercial in-space satellite servicing system. The Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1) spacecraft successfully completed its critical design review earlier this year and is now in production with about 75% of the platform and payload components already delivered to the company’s Satellite Manufacturing Facility in Virginia. The spacecraft will begin system-level testing in spring 2018 with launch planned late next year. MEV-1 will provide satellite life extension services to its anchor customer, Intelsat S.A., beginning in early 2019.
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.