Boeing Sues Virgin Galactic Over Stalled Mothership Work

Richard Branson's space travel company refused to destroy the "equations."

Boeing is dealing with a lot of problems at the moment but that doesn’t mean the aerospace company is going to let its partners get away with allegedly hoarding trade secrets and stiffing it on the bill.

According to Space News, Boeing and its subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences have filed suit against Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s commercial spacecraft company. The suit alleges that Virgin Galactic refused to pay more than $26 million in invoices and won’t destroy proprietary information provided by Aurora.

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The dispute connects back to a 2022 agreement for the Boeing subsidiary to handle manufacturing duties for a new Mothership, which is the high-altitude aircraft designed to carry Virgin Galactic’s shuttle close to the edge of space. According to the report, Aurora only got through two task orders before ending work on the contract in 2023. The company concluded it would be impossible to build the new Mothership that Virgin Galactic asked for while sticking to the budget and timeline it had laid out.

Besides the $26.4 million in unpaid bills, Virgin Galactic is also facing allegations that declined to part ways with some Boeing trade secrets, referred to in the complaint as “the equations.”

“These equations allow Boeing and Aurora to model aircraft stability and control with exceptional accuracy beyond that which is commonly available in the aerospace industry,” the lawsuit reads. “These equations are valuable to Boeing and Aurora because they give it a distinct competitive advantage in accurately modeling aircraft stability and control.”

Virgin Galactic claims its intellectual property rights allow it to keep the records. But if the court sees it differently, the company could be on the hook for an unspecified amount of damages in addition to the total amount of the unpaid invoices.

The lawsuit comes as Virgin Galactic is focused on opening a spaceship factory in Arizona by mid-2024 and continuing work on its Delta-class space shuttle.

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