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Squabble over ‘Space Tug’ scheme

Satellite manufacturer Orbital ATK is in a legal spat with its former partner in its ViviSat ‘space tug’ project. The ViviSat concept sees a satellite being used to rescue failing orbiting satellites. ViviSat is already holding contracts or MoUs with the likes of Intelsat, ABS, SES, Measat and Hispasat.

Orbital was once involved in a joint-venture for the ViviSat project with US Space, and US Space is now arguing in the Supreme Court of New York that Orbital violated the terms of a management agreement between the two parties over ViviSat.

US Space describes the actions of Orbital ATK as a “double cross of cosmic proportions” in their court filing.

The ViviSat joint-venture was created by ATK Space Systems and US Space back in 2010 in a scheme then described as their Mission Extension Vehicle.

Orbital Sciences Corp and ATK (the aerospace division of Alliant TechSystems) merged in February 2015.

The current court filings explain the complex reasons behind the separation of the two businesses over the ViviSat project, with a long list of mutually dependent obligations. ATK, by and large, was responsible for the technology while US Space took responsibility for raising the cash and the business development. An agreement, signed in April 2013, including a “trigger” clause which would give control over ViviSat to ATK if key milestones were not achieved.

The writ argues that US Space had secured several financial offers, but each was rejected “or ignored” by the now merged Orbital ATK.  Earlier this year on March 4th Orbital ATK notified US Space that it was assuming control of the ViviSat project.

On April 12th Orbital ATK announced its first ViviSat contract but mentioned it via a new subsidiary company (Space Logistics) with Intelsat for a launch scheduled for 2018, and fully funded by Orbital ATK.

Orbital ATK reportedly says the writ is without merit.

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