UK-based broadband-by-satellite provider Avanti Communications is involved in a legal dispute with new launch provider SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies) over use of its groundbreaking Falcon-9 rocket. Nevertheless, Avanti’s CEO David Williams says the new company has sufficient spectrum available to “launch perhaps 20 satellites”.
Details of the legal spat were revealed in Avanti’s annual report. Avanti’s first satellite, Hylas 1, was launched last November, and was originally contracted to be launched on the SpaceX rocket, and Avanti paid a $7.6m launch deposit. However, numerous delays forced Avanti to switch launch providers to Arianespace.
Avanti is involved in an action in a New York arbitration tribunal seeking the return of the deposit, and alleges that SpaceX has failed to return the deposit.
“This amount is due from Space Explorations Inc (“SpaceX”), who Avanti originally contracted to launch Hylas-1 on their Falcon 9 launch vehicle. However, as SpaceX had failed to generate the required launch heritage Avanti cancelled the launch services, as provided within the contract, and the monies previously paid were due to be refunded. SpaceX have failed to make the required refund and we took the dispute to arbitration in New York. The arbitrators are due to give their binding ruling in the early New Year. The directors are confident that the monies will be recovered and no provision is necessary,” said the Avanti statement.
SpaceX, in a statement issued January 26 says: “Clearly we disagree with Avanti’s statement. However, our contract with Avanti contains confidentiality provisions so neither party is at liberty to discuss or characterise the merits of arbitration, and any such comments would be in breach of the agreement.”
Avanti’s annual report talks optimistically about its business prospects. It is already building a second satellite for launch in Spring 2012, and is working on the procurement of Hylas-3 “and other satellites”.