Spaceflight provider Orbital ATK this week lost its bid to stop the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) from moving ahead with a partnership with a competing company, Space Systems Loral, to demonstrate in-space satellite servicing, federal court documents show.
In February, Orbital ATK filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to stop the program, known as Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites, or RSGS, on grounds that it violates provisions of the 2010 U.S. National Space Policy.
DARPA had selected California-based Space Systems Loral (SSL) as the agency's commercial partner for RSGS, with the goal of building a spacecraft to inspect, capture, reposition, repair and upgrade satellites in geosynchronous orbits. SSL also intends to demonstrate satellite refueling. [DARPA's Futuristic Satellite-Servicing Plan in Images]
Upon completion of the work for DARPA, SSL can sell RSGS services to commercial and government satellite operators, work that Orbital ATK said will compete with its own satellite-servicing business. Orbital ATK filed suit on grounds that the RSGS program violates U.S. space policy, which in part bans the government from building or buying systems that "preclude, discourage or compete with commercial systems."