The Insider

Orbital ATK files suit against DARPA

February 08, 2017 |
Marjorie Censer
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Orbital ATK on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's acting director, claiming the agency is seeking "to create its own government-funded technology that will compete -- unfairly and illegally -- with Orbital ATK's privately developed commercial capability."

According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Orbital ATK is seeking a permanent injunction that would prohibit further action on DARPA's Robotic Servicing of Geospatial Satellites program as well as a judgment that the project violates the National Space Policy and the Administrative Procedure Act.

Orbital ATK says in its lawsuit that it has long worked on in-space satellite servicing. It is developing the Mission Extension Vehicle, which it describes as a "satellite life extension service for Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites."

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 claims, 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 alleges 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."

In 2016, DARPA issued a solicitation for RSGS. On Feb. 6, according to the lawsuit, DARPA selected Space Systems/Loral, a subsidiary of Canadian firm MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, for the program. However, that award is not listed among the Pentagon's Feb. 6 contract awards.

A DARPA spokesman said the agency cannot comment on pending legal action.

The news was first reported by the Washington Post.