Court Throws Out Orbital ATK Lawsuit Over DARPA Satellite Servicing Contract

DARPA Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites Program satellite. (Credit: DARPA)

Well, some bad news and maybe some good news for Orbital ATK in its battle against a DARPA-backed satellite servicing venture.

U.S. District Court dismissed Orbital ATK’s lawsuit against a U.S. government effort to develop an in-orbit robotic servicing vehicle with contractor Space Systems/Loral (SSL), saying the court has no standing to challenge an agency program.

In its July 12 decision, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia suggested that Orbital’s basic argument — that U.S. policy encourages government agencies to turn to the private sector for technology rather than develop competing technology — had merit.

The problem for Orbital, the court concluded, is that it sought to cancel an entire U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program and not a specific element of it….

DARPA awarded an RSGS contract to SSL in February 2017 after a competitive bidding process in which Orbital did not participate as a bidder, but rather as a kind of informal protester asking DARPA to change the program. DARPA considers that Orbital’s response was in fact a non-compliant bid.

Orbital ATK’s argument is that the DARPA/SSL project competes against a satellite servicing program the company has been developing with its own money. Thus, it runs counter to U.S. policy to promote commercial space development and competition.

Space Systems Loral to Provide Satellite Constellation for DigitalGlobe

PALO ALTO, Calif. (SSL PR) MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (“MDA” or the “Company”) (TSX:MDA), a global communications and information company, today announced that its subsidiary Space Systems Loral (SSL) was selected to provide a next-generation satellite constellation for high-resolution Earth imaging to DigitalGlobe, the global leader in Earth imagery and information about our changing planet. Called WorldView Legion, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites will more than double DigitalGlobe’s high-resolution capacity in important regions. The contract is valued at several hundred million U.S. dollars..

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MDA Forms Space Infrastructure Services for Satellite Servicing

Satellite refueling mission (Credit: MDA)

SAN FRANCISCO, June 28, 2017 (SSL MDA PR) — SSL MDA Holdings Inc., a global communications and information company, today announced important milestones in its progress to bring transformational on-orbit satellite servicing to market.

Space Infrastructure Services LLC (SIS), a new U.S. company, will commercialize sophisticated satellite servicing capabilities, including refueling. SIS will be majority owned by Finance Technology Leverage LLC (FTL), a global investment company headquartered in Silicon Valley, along with other U.S. investors, with SSL MDA Holdings maintaining a minority ownership share.  Full financing for the venture is expected to conclude in the coming weeks.

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Proton Back in Action Thursday After Being Grounded for 1 Year

Proton on launch pad (Credit: ILS)

Russia’s Proton booster will begin launching again on Thursday, June 8, which will be one day short of a year after its most recent flight.

Proton Breeze M will launch the EchoStar XXI communications satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 03:45:47 UMT (23:45:47 Wednesday, June 7).

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Ted Cruz to Conduct Hearing on Outer Space Treaty


Reopening the American Frontier:

Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space

Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
2:30 p.m.
Live webcast: www.commerce.senate.gov.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled “Reopening the American Frontier: Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.

This hearing will examine U.S. government obligations under the Outer Space Treaty on its 50th anniversary, specifically compliance with Article VI of the Treaty that requires governments to authorize and continually supervise the activities of non-government entities. This hearing will also explore the Treaty’s potential impacts on expansion of our nation’s commerce and settlement in space.

Witness Panel 1:

  • Mr. James E. Dunstan, Founder, Mobius Legal Group, PLLC
  • Ms. Laura Montgomery, Attorney and Proprietor, Ground Based Space Matters, LLC
  •  Mr. Matthew Schaefer, Co-Director of Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law Program University of Nebraska College of Law

Witness Panel 2:

  • Mr. Mike Gold, Vice President, Washington Operations, Space Systems Loral
  • Mr. Peter Marquez, Vice President of Global Engagement, Planetary Resources
  • Colonel Pamela Melroy, Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Retired and Former Astronaut
  • Mr. Bob Richards, Founder and CEO, Moon Express

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017
2:30 p.m.
Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Luxembourg to Launch a Fund Offering Financial Support for Space Resources Industry

LUXEMBOURG (Luxembourg Government PR – To promote Luxembourg as a European hub for the exploration and commercial use of space resources, the Ministry of the Economy conducted from April 9th to April 13th an economic mission headed by Luxembourg’s Crown Prince to the U.S. West Coast. The mission aimed to identify and develop new business opportunities and to promote the governmental SpaceResources.lu initiative that offers an attractive overall framework for space resource utilization related activities, including but not limited to the legal regime to provide private companies and investors with a secure legal environment as of the ownership of resources gathered in space.

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SSL, DARPA Sign Satellite Servicing Agreement

DARPA Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites Program satellite. (Credit: DARPA)

PALO ALTO, Calif., April 12, 2017 (SSL PR) Space Systems Loral (SSL), a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, today announced that it has signed and executed an agreement with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop advanced capabilities for servicing and maintaining spacecraft in geostationary orbit.  Details of the partnership were previously released on February 9, 2017.

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Space Systems Loral Sues Orbital ATK Over Alleged Theft of Trade Secrets

Artist’s conception of Restore-L servicing satellite with Landsat 7. (Credit: NASA)

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.

Read the full story.

A Look at Payloads Launched in 2016

Built by Lockheed Martin, the WorldView-4 satellite will expand DigitalGlobe’s industry-leading constellation of high-accuracy, high-resolution satellites, and double the availability of 30 cm resolution imagery for commercial and government customers around the globe. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

Excerpt from

The Annual Compendium of
Commercial Space Transportation: 2017

Federal Aviation Administration
Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST)

January 2017

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.

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DARPA Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) Program Fact Sheet

DARPA Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites Program satellite. (Credit: DARPA)

DARPA Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) Program
Fact Sheet

Overview

National security increasingly demands a high degree of flexibility on orbit, including an ability to repair and upgrade satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO). The technical challenges of performing such functions in GEO are significant, but success could substantially revolutionize military and commercial space operations, lower satellite construction and deployment costs, and improve satellite lifespan, resilience, and reliability—precisely the kind of high risk/high reward opportunity that DARPA was created to pursue. RSGS is a research and demonstration effort that aims to speed the arrival of capabilities such as high-resolution inspection; correction of otherwise mission-ending mechanical anomalies such as solar array and antenna deployment malfunctions; assistance with relocation and other orbital maneuvers; and installation of attachable payloads, enabling upgrades to existing assets.
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DARPA Selects Space Systems Loral for GEO Satellite Servicing Mission

DARPA RSGS Robotic Servicing Vehicle utilizing MDA US Systems robotic arms to repair a satellite on orbit. (Source: DARPA)

WASHNIGTON (DARPA PR) — In an important step toward a new era of advanced, cost-effective robotic capabilities in space, DARPA today announced that it has selected Space Systems Loral (SSL), based in Palo Alto, CA, as its commercial partner for the Agency’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program.

DARPA and SSL seek to develop technologies that would enable cooperative inspection and servicing of satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), more than 20,000 miles above the Earth, and demonstrate those technologies on orbit. If successful, this research and demonstration effort would open the door to radically lowering the risks and costs of operating in GEO, a harsh and difficult-to-access domain that is critically important for both military and civilian space assets.

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Members of Congress Urge DARPA to Reconsider Satellite Servicing Program

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).

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SSL to Provide Spacecraft for NASA Asteroid Mission

The Psyche mission spacecraft will include a multispectral imager, which will be led by an ASU science team and will provide high-resolution images using filters to differentiate between the asteroid’s metallic and silicate components. (Credit: SSL)
The Psyche mission spacecraft will include a multispectral imager, which will be led by an ASU science team and will provide high-resolution images using filters to differentiate between the asteroid’s metallic and silicate components. (Credit: SSL)

Palo Alto, Calif. (SSL PR) Space Systems Loral (SSL), a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, today announced that it will provide a spacecraft platform for a NASA Discovery Mission to explore the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche. SSL will work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to support Principal Investigator Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton, director of Arizona State University’s (ASU) School of Earth and Space Exploration, in a mission to research the 210 km diameter asteroid, which is believed to be the only place in the solar system where a metal planetary core can be studied. As the industrial partner, SSL will provide the “power-propulsion chassis,” a highly capable composite structure spacecraft platform equipped with a high-power solar electric propulsion (SEP) system.

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Firmamentum Wins Contract to Manufacture Comsat Component in Space

Tethers_Unlimited_LogoBOTHELL, Wash. (Tehters Unlimited PR) – Firmamentum, a division of Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI), announced that it has signed a contract with Space Systems Loral (SSL), a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, to prepare a flight demonstration of in-space manufacture of a component on a communications satellite.

Firmamentum’s in-space manufacturing hardware is intended to fly as part of SSL’s “Dragonfly” program, which will demonstrate in-space robotic assembly of geostationary (GEO) communications satellites, enabling dramatic improvements in GEO satellite performance and mission flexibility.

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NanoRacks Teams With SSL, ULA on NextSTEP-2 Habitat Development

Concept image representing the feasibility study that NanoRacks will conduct related to converting a launch vehicle's upper stage into a habitable volume. (Credit: NanoRacks)
Concept image representing the feasibility study that NanoRacks will conduct related to converting a launch vehicle’s upper stage into a habitable volume. (Credit: NanoRacks)

HOUSTON, Texas (NanoRacks PR) – NASA has selected the Ixion Initiative Team, comprised of NanoRacks, LLC (“NanoRacks”), Space Systems/Loral, LLC (“SSL”), and United Launch Alliance (“ULA”) – the nation’s premier launch provider, to participate in the Agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (“NextSTEP-2”) program.

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