Orbital ATK, Space Systems/Loral trade lawsuits

Orbital ATK and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Space Systems/Loral are slinging dueling lawsuits at each other over a dispute involving a new government satellite repair initiative, Reuters reported Thursday.

Orbital ATK first sued the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in February over the award of a contract to SSL in February for a new satellite-servicing spacecraft to work while in orbit.

Now SSL has filed a suit alleging that an Orbital ATK employee at NASA’s Langley Research Center distributed SSL documents from a partnership the latter has with the space agency on another in-orbit servicing program, according to Reuters.

SSL was chosen in December for a potential five-year, $127 million contract to help build a robotic vehicle for NASA to conduct in-orbit satellite repairs.

Among the claims and counterclaims in the lawsuits are charges that DARPA’s decision to award a contract to SSL damages the competitive landscape. How the court rules on that issue might have an impact beyond space contracts.

The battle between the two also illustrates how hotly competitive space and the geospatial market is.

SSL is a subsidiary of Canada-based space technology maker MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates -- which announced in February it would purchase Earth imagery provider DigitalGlobe for $2.4 billion.

DigitalGlobe will operate as a standalone subsidiary when the deal closes. It will generate roughly 64 percent of its overall $725.4 million in 2016 revenue from U.S. government customers.

MDA expects its post-merger annual revenue to total nearly $2 billion with close to one quarter of that projected from U.S. agencies, according to investor slides from February.

Headquartered in the Vancouver region, MDA is in the midst of its “U.S. Access Plan” to gain eligibility for classified space contracts and in January signed a security control agreement with the Defense Department.

MDA gained an additional facility clearance in February for its SSL MDA Holdings subsidiary to be headquartered in San Francisco and house all U.S. government work with an additional process ongoing for SSL’s operations in Palo Alto, MDA CEO Howard Lance told investors in February.

Shares in Orbital ATK swung from positive to negative after Reuters published the story in the 11 a.m. Eastern time hour and the stock closed 62 cents lower to $98.92.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also connect with him on LinkedIn.

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