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Boeing Accused of IP Theft by Wilson Aerospace
PLUS: “Potentially hazardous” asteroid zoomed past Earth
Good morning Earthlings 👽️ 🖖
We’re going to sprinkle some excitement on your Tuesday with the newest happenings in the space business. Ready to dive in? Let’s get it.
In today's edition of Earthlings...
💼 Wilson Aerospace Sues Boeing
💸 Boeing’s history of legal penalties
😬 “Potentially hazardous” asteroid zoomed past Earth
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The aerospace world is buzzing with news as Colorado-based Wilson Aerospace, a family-owned company, sued Boeing on June 6, 2023. It’s just like David and Goliath, but in the world of aerospace tools. Wilson is alleging theft of intellectual property (IP) and the creation of counterfeit tools by Boeing. The innovation? A fluid fitting torque device (FFTD).
This device, designed and developed by Wilson, is crafted to tighten and loosen fittings in the cramped confines of spacecrafts. The firm claims that Boeing, after gaining access to proprietary information about this masterpiece tool, put a sudden halt to Wilson's involvement, and commercialized the intellectual property. The tool in question was extensively used in various NASA projects, such as the International Space Station (ISS) and the Space Launch Systems moon rocket. Allegedly, these inferior tools have resulted in leaks on the ISS and the SLS, and “put lives at risk.” Not ideal for Boeing.
“Although Boeing paid Wilson for some of its work over the years, Boeing’s primary approach was to steal Wilson’s intellectual property through deception and other illegal means, rather than to compensate,” the complaint alleges.
Here’s what the two sides are saying:
Boeing’s lawyers have dismissed these accusations with a spokesperson stating the lawsuit is "rife with inaccuracies and omissions."
Wilson's lawyer, Christopher Warmbold, paints a picture of a conspiracy, alleging that Boeing was systematically targeting small tool providers for their intellectual property. Another of Wilson's lawyers, Pete Flowers, estimates that damages reach the realm of "hundreds of millions of dollars” in financial and reputational losses.
The lawsuit's 74-page complaint is reminiscent of a previous litigation, including Boeing’s settlement with the Department of Justice in 2006 for $615 million over Lockhead Martin trade secrets. According to a corporate violation tracking website, since 2000, Boeing has paid $2.54 billion dollars in penalties, just in competition related offences. Over this period, Boeing has paid a total $4.16 billion over 118 offences.
There’s a good saying that goes, “history doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” This case is a stark reminder of the family-owned businesses that often operate under the radar yet contribute significantly to our advancements in the space economy. We’re excited to see how this plays out…
If you’re reading this, it means that a skyscraper-sized asteroid safely zipped past Earth Sunday night (June 11), missing our planet by a few million miles. Clearly, we’re all still alive. To put this into perspective, that’s about eight times the average distance between Earth and the moon, according to NASA, which happens to be a very small distance in space terms.
Here’s the good news: there are currently no known objects of this magnitude at risk of hitting our planet for at least the next 1,000 years. Here’s the better news: even if there were to be a deadly asteroid hurling towards Earth, NASA successfully completed its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission in 2022, demonstrating that a well-aimed rocket could alter an asteroid's orbit if necessary. Take that, rock! So sit back, relax, and enjoy the many asteroids that will come for a fly-by visit.
Let me leave you with a fun (and maybe anxiety-inducing) image of the orbital paths of ~2,200 potentially hazardous objects orbiting near Earth as calculated by JPL’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies…
This diagram shows the orbits of 2,200 potentially hazardous objects as calculated by JPL’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). Highlighted is the orbit of the double asteroid Didymos, the target of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) mission.
📰 In Other News…
Varda Space Industries successfully launched its first test mission on June 12, 2023 aboard a SpaceX rocket just after 5:30 pm EST. Start-ups like Varda wants to take manufacturing to microgravity - Packy McCormick wrote an excellent deep-dive into Varda. More to come about this topic this week 👀
U.S. Space Force is negotiating with allies about how to jointly protect space assets from threats like cyber attacks, suggesting a shared responsibility in defence systems (Space.com)
U.S Space Force is sticking with SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) for 12 military launches in 2025 (Space.com)
🐦 Tweet of the Day
There’s more than 45,000 galaxies visible in this photo taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope 😳 https://t.co/ucHRWWMoGM
🤖 AI Art of the Day
That’s it for today, Earthlings.
Thanks for reading - we’ll see you next time! 🧑🚀