July 13, 2024

Boeing Sues Virgin Galactic Over New Mothership Aircraft Development

Boeing and its subsidiary, Aurora Flight Sciences, have filed a lawsuit against Virgin Galactic, seeking resolution over unpaid invoices and alleged misappropriation of trade secrets.

Photo Source: https://spacenews.com/

The legal action, filed on March 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, claims Virgin Galactic owes $26.4 million for work on a new “mothership” aircraft. This aircraft is crucial for supporting Virgin Galactic’s next-gen suborbital space planes. Allegations also suggest Virgin Galactic improperly used Boeing and Aurora’s proprietary technical information.

Virgin Galactic denies the lawsuit’s validity, stating it will vigorously defend itself, according to a company spokesperson speaking to SpaceNews.

Virgin Galactic relies on a mothership aircraft to lift its space plane to 50,000 feet, from where it launches for its rocket-powered ascent to suborbital space.

Photo Source: https://www.popsci.com/

In 2022, Virgin Galactic chose Aurora Flight Sciences to build two new motherships, slated for 2025 delivery. They were meant to replace VMS Eve and handle up to 200 flights annually. However, progress stopped after May 2023 design work due to budget and timeline constraints cited by Boeing and Aurora.

The lawsuit also alleges trade secret misappropriation, with Boeing and Aurora claiming Virgin Galactic obtained technical specifications and modeling equations. They demand Virgin Galactic destroy this information, but Virgin Galactic refuses, citing intellectual property rights.

Virgin Galactic now prioritizes its Delta-class space plane, maintaining VMS Eve for upcoming flights while pausing the new mothership project.

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