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A lawsuit between Orbital Sciences and one of its subcontractors threatens to delay the planned April launch of Antares/Cygnus to ISS.
The lawsuit, filed Oct. 21 with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, centers around a roughly $2 million contract Orbital Sciences awarded in 2013 to defendants Integrated Systems and Machinery of Smithtown, New York, and its owner, Kevin Huber. The contract called for Huber’s company to build new gimbals and cylinders for the hydraulic system used by the slow-moving, truck-like Transporter Erector vehicle that hauls Orbital’s Antares cargo rocket and Cygnus space freighter out of their Wallops Island, Virginia, hangar and raises them vertical at their Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch pad over a kilometer away.
Orbital’s third cargo run to the ISS — which at press time was still slated to launch Oct. 27 — can proceed without the withheld hardware. However, Orbital is obligated under an agreement with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s host state to upgrade the Transporter Erector before launching its fourth contracted cargo run, the debut of a bigger, heavier Cygnus cargo tug.
I don’t really expect this dispute to delay the April launch. What we have here is a case of hardball negotiations, with the subcontractor using the situation to try to squeeze more money out of Orbital Sciences. In the end they will come to an agreement and the upgrade will be installed.