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By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., March 23 Space
Systems/Loral is suing rival Orbital ATK over an alleged
theft of proprietary data and business plans for an in-space
satellite servicing technology, according to a complaint filed
The lawsuit is the second in six weeks involving the
companies and their efforts to start a new industry servicing
and repairing satellites in orbit.
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 could not immediately be reached for 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
“With knowledge of this confidential information,
competitors can modify their proposals to undercut any and all
of SSL’s potential advantages,” the suit said.
The documents contain information about SSL’s technology for
robotic satellite assembly, repair and servicing; research and
development efforts; financing and business plans; procurement
and performance strategies; customer development; and
subcontractor and vendor relationships, the suit said.
SSL seeks a jury trial and economic damages in an amount to
NASA said it was informed by Orbital of the data breech in
November and took immediate action to restrict access. An
investigation is underway, NASA spokesman Allard Beutel told
Reuters in an email.
Orbital last month filed suit in the Eastern District of
Virginia to stop the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA) from awarding a contract to SSL to build the agency a
satellite that can make service calls to other spacecraft.
Orbital says it unveiled a similar business last year and
the DARPA program violates U.S. policy precluding the government
from competing with commercial systems.
SSL, which in December won a NASA contract for another
satellite servicing technology demonstration, says its system is
different from the service Orbital is planning.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Peter Henderson and Dan