U.S. court orders India’s s space agency ISRO to pay $1.2 billion

A U.S. court has ordered Antrix, the commercial arm of India’s space agency ISRO, to pay $1.2 billion to Devas, a private company with operations in both India and the United States, for a contract they canceled arbitrarily in 2011.

This is a very complicated story going back many years. ISRO’s Antrix and Devas had agreements beginning in 2005 to work together to develop commercial satellites, with Antrix building the satellites and Devas commercializing bandwidth. In 2011 the India government cancelled the contracts unilaterally.

On February 25, 2011, Antrix issued a termination notice to Devas, which among other things stated that the policy decision was of the central government, acting in its sovereign capacity is the event of force majeure, which was an occurrence on February 23, 2011, PTI report said. “The scope and duration of the said decision cannot be anticipated. It is likely to be indefinite. It is not possible for Antrix to take any effective step to resume the obligations under the agreement,” Antrix was quoted as saying.

One of the reasons for the cancellation were accusations that payoffs were occurring between officials at both Antrix and Devas to make the deal happen.

Devas has been fighting in numerous courts for years to get compensation for that cancellation.

ISRO can probably ignore this U.S. court decision, except that if it does it will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for ISRO to do any work in partnership with the U.S., such as in the Artemis program. As soon as they try to do so, Devas will slap a lien on that operation, demanding payment.

India faces $1 billion in damages for space contract cancellation

An arbitration court at the Hague yesterday ruled that India faces $1 billion in damages because of its unilateral cancellation in 2011 of a satellite deal between itself and a private company.

More info here. Essentially the ruling says that India had made a legal commitment when it signed the contract, and by unilaterally cancelled it they did harm to the private company’s shareholders.

This case illustrates that, despite India’s successes in space, it is still running a government space program, with all the flaws that come with it. Paying off these damages will likely put a serious crimp in the country’s space effort in the next few years.