Tag Archives: SSL

SSL lawsuit against Orbital ATK to move forward

A judge has ruled that a lawsuit brought by SSL against Orbital ATK, two companies competing for satellite servicing work, can go forward.

The case stems a December 2016 incident where NASA officials notified SSL that there had been unauthorized access to SSL documents related to a NASA “Tipping Point” technology development award on a server at the Langley Research Center. SSL had received that award earlier in the year to work on technologies related to in-space satellite servicing.

That unauthorized access was traced to an Orbital ATK employee, who was subsequently fired by the company. However, SSL said in its suit that as many as six Orbital ATK employees viewed the documents. SSL filed the suit in March 2017 seeking an injunction to prevent Orbital ATK from using any of those documents in its own projects, as well as “other and further relief the Court may deem just and appropriate.”

Both companies have satellite servicing missions planned. What I want is for both to succeed, to provide some competition in the field. Though I suspect this is doubtful, this lawsuit has the possibiliity of killing Orbital ATK’s effort.

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Orbital ATK begins assembly of first orbital repair satellite

Capitalism in space: Orbital ATK has begun the assembly of Mission Extension Vehicle 1, (MEV-1), designed to attach itself to commercial satellites and extend their life.

Controlled by the company’s satellite operations team, the MEV 1 uses a reliable, low-risk docking system that attaches to existing features on a customer’s satellite. The MEV-1 provides life-extending services by taking over the orbit maintenance and attitude control functions of the client’s spacecraft. The vehicle has a 15 year design life with the ability to perform numerous dockings and repositionings during its life span.

They hope to launch before the end of 2018. Meanwhile, the legal battle between Orbital ATK’s effort to build this satellite repair mission and DARPA’s effort to subsidize SSL’s own satellite repair mission continues in Congress with the introduction of two amendments favoring Orbital ATK.

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SSL sues Orbital ATK over proprietary in-space servicing technology

Space Systems/Loral has filed a lawsuit against Orbital ATK over that company’s improper access to proprietary information concerning its in-space servicing plans.

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.

Orbital declined to comment.

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.

The two companies are in direct competition for doing in-space robotic servicing of satellites. Last month Orbital ATK sued DARPA for its contract with SSL for this work, claiming the contract violated U.S. policy that forbids DARPA from competing directly against commercial companies. It appears that this new lawsuit is a bit of tit-for-tat.

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