WASHINGTON — Minneapolis-based AlliantTechsystems (ATK) announced Oct. 16 it had resolved a contract dispute with United Space Alliance (USA) about the work the Houston-based space shuttle operator will perform in support of the Ares 1 crew launch vehicle NASA has under development.
The two sides signed a memorandum of agreement three days earlier outlining some $250 million worth of work USA will perform through 2013 or 2014 as a subcontractor on ATK’s Ares 1 main stage development efforts. ATK and USA officials said during an Oct. 16 teleconference with reporters that finalizing a formal contract would take an additional 30 to 60 days.
“ATK and USA have had a really strong relationship over many, many years. Resolving this matter in just a couple weeks is just testimony to the fact that we have a strong bond between our two companies and we are very much looking forward to moving forward with Ares 1-X and the Ares program,” said Michael Kahn, executive vice president and general manager of Promontory, Utah-based ATK Launch Systems.
USA sued ATK in Florida’s Brevard County Circuit Court in mid-August alleging fraud and breech of contract by ATK.
The crux of USA’s complaint was that ATK had been poaching its employees while scaling back the work USA would perform on the Ares 1 main-stage contract. ATK at the time called USA’s suit “without merit.”
The following month USA President Richard Covey informed employees that a dispute about work content had reached an impasse and that USA would be walking away from its Ares 1 support role as of Sept. 21, when the latest extension of a so-called letter contract awarded in 2006 was set to expire.
Eleventh hour negotiations kept USA employees on the job beyond Sept. 21 while ATK and USA continued during the next two weeks to work toward the long-term agreement just announced.
Anne Martt, USA vice president and Constellation program manager, said USA employees should be pleased with the outcome. “Being a member of the ATK team is excellent news for us and for our work force,” she said during the telecom. “We are looking forward to supporting them on Ares 1-X and Ares 1 and it helps our company keep a strong, focused workforce so we can continue to support shuttle and give our workforce a strong path to the future on Constellation.”
Constellation is the NASA program that aims to field the Ares 1 rocket and Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle in 2015 as a first step toward sending astronauts back to the Moon around 2020. Ares 1 is based on a larger version of the ATK-built solid-rocket boosters that fire in tandem to help lift the space shuttle off the pad.
As for the lawsuit, neither USA nor ATK were willing to say much about it.
“The lawyers on both sides are actively discussing resolution of that litigation and that’s all we can say at this time,” Martt said.