WASHINGTON — Boeing and a Russian company it was once partners with on the Sea Launch joint venture are in discussions about a settlement to a long-running legal dispute, a deal that could involve cooperation on future projects.
The Russian newspaper Izvestia reported Aug. 18 that Boeing and RSC Energia had reached a preliminary agreement to settle a lawsuit Boeing filed in 2013. In that suit, Boeing alleged that Energia and Ukrainian launch vehicle manufacturer Yuzhnoye, partners with Boeing in Sea Launch, failed to reimburse Boeing for payments it made to third-party creditors.
On May 12, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued a judgment in favor of Boeing, concluding that Energia, through two subsidiaries, owed Boeing more than $320 million, plus legal fees, to uphold its reimbursement obligations as defined in prior agreements.
Vladimir Solntsev, general director of Energia, told Izvestia that the company had signed a preliminary agreement with Boeing to settle the lawsuit, with a final agreement expected by the end of the year. As part of the settlement, Solntsev said that Boeing agreed to write off part of the judgment.
He also indicated that Energia would compensate Boeing through a cooperative agreement involving space programs. He offered few details beyond a comment that the companies were working on a docking adapter that could be used by both Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew spacecraft and a next-generation Russia crewed spacecraft called Federation under development by Energia for the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos.
Solntsev appeared to be referring to the International Docking Adapter, which Boeing is building for NASA. Energia was a subcontractor to Boeing on the adapter, providing its primary structure. One of the adapters was installed on the International Space Station during a spacewalk by two NASA astronauts Aug. 19.
Boeing has not confirmed that the companies have reached an agreement to settle the lawsuit. Boeing spokesman Charles Bickers said Aug. 19 the company had no comment on the Izvestia report.
However, legal filings do indicate that the companies are negotiating a settlement. In a joint motion filed July 20, attorneys for Boeing and Energia requested the court stay further action on the case, including any efforts to collect the judgment. The court granted the motion July 22.
In the motion, the companies said they had reached a “framework agreement” that would support additional negotiations for a final agreement. Approving the motion, they argued, “would promote the orderly course of justice by allowing the Parties the time necessary to conclude an integrated final settlement agreement that would dispose of this complex litigation and the multitude of pending motions as between Plaintiffs and the Energia Defendants.”
It’s unclear what any settlement would mean for Sea Launch itself, now primarily owned by Energia. Sea Launch’s last mission, launching a satellite for Eutelsat, was in May 2014, and its mobile launch platform and command ship remain docked in port in Long Beach, California.
In April, Boeing was concerned enough about reports Russia would sell Sea Launch and its assets that it sought a preliminary injunction in federal court to block the sale, fearing the new owner would move the ships beyond the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. Russian officials have since backed away from statements suggesting the sale was imminent.