The Insider

Court dismisses Orbital ATK lawsuit against DARPA

July 13, 2017 |
Marjorie Censer
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A federal court this week dismissed a lawsuit filed by Orbital ATK against the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's acting director.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed the case on July 12 for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

Orbital ATK filed suit in February, seeking to halt DARPA's Robotic Servicing of Geospatial Satellites program and a judgment that the project violates the National Space Policy and the Administrative Procedure Act.

According to the lawsuit, ATK -- which merged its defense and aerospace groups with Orbital Sciences in 2015 -- was working with DARPA on an in-space satellite servicing demonstration in 2012. But in 2013, Orbital ATK claimed, the program changed and became the RSGS initiative.

"DARPA's acquisition strategy is to develop RSGS, launch it, demonstrate it for less than a year, then hand RSGS off to a sole commercial provider, thereby providing a subsidy worth hundreds of millions of dollars to a single service provider in the commercial marketplace," Orbital ATK alleged in its complaint. "Thus, DARPA's RSGS program as conceived and presented, will in effect use substantial taxpayer funds to subsidize a single competitor with private commercial space companies in the industry, in direct violation of the National Space Policy."

According to a court memo, "because the complaint is an attack on the RSGS Program, this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction." Additionally, the court found that the National Space Policy "does not have the force of law."

In a statement, DARPA spokesman Jared Adams said the agency "appreciates the court's careful consideration of this case and is gratified by the judge's decision.

"We look forward to continuing our collaboration with public and private entities in pursuit of our ambitious goal of robotic satellite servicing on orbit," he continued.

Orbital ATK said in a statement it "will redouble its efforts to fight for fair competition in the satellite servicing arena."

"The Court did not rule on the merits of the RSGS program, but said that the U.S. National Space Policy does not have the force of law," thje company said. "This effectively returns the issue to the Executive branch and Congress for resolution. . . . We will continue in our efforts to work with the Administration, DoD and Congress to uphold the principles of the National Space Policy and of good government."