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Space Firm Says Virginia Stiffed It for $16.5M

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority refuses to pay a contractor $16.5 million for improvements to a launch facility that will serve the International Space Station, according to a lawsuit filed in the city's Circuit Court.

According to plaintiff Orbital Sciences Corp., NASA is paying it $1.9 billion to launch supplies to the ISS, and the company chose the Wallops Island MARS (Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport) as its sole launch site.

But in order for this to happen, Virginia had to improve the site.

Unfortunately, Orbital says, and ran into costs overruns that threatened to shut down construction.

To prevent that, the company said it lent the money to the authority in the form of an asset purchase in which Orbital bought various pieces of space equipment, including launch pad hydraulics and transporter vehicles; Under the terms of the agreement, Virginia was buy back the assets upon completion.

But the commonwealth failed to hold its end of the bargain, Orbital says.

"In the last six years, Orbital has invested of over $150 million in Virginia, and total Orbital headcount in the Commonwealth has increased by almost 200 new employees," the company states. "Overall, Orbital has invested a total of $660 million in the development of its Antares rocket and related space system that will deliver cargo to the ISS on nine missions to be flown out of MARS."

All in all, Orbital says it bought $16.5 million in space gear, "but the Commonwealth and Authority have declined to perform their obligations."

In response, the company sued the authority, the state of Virginia, and state Comptroller David Vin Moll for breach of contract seeking an order compelling the parties to buy back the assets - plus interest.

The firm is represented by Hugh Fain III of Spotts Fain of Richmond.

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