The last thing Rocketplane needs
It is unclear how things are going on the technical side, but financially speaking, it's been a hard, bumpy ride, of late, for Rocketplane Kistler.
As Rocketplane continues "'working on possible cures' for the funding crisis" that prompted NASA to issue formal notification on Sept. 7th that the space agency would terminate the company's COTS agreement for failing to meet financial milestones, Rocketplane now finds itself smacked with a lawsuit by a disgruntled space tourism marketing company over, of all things, money.
I have not seen the complaint, but today the Chicago Tribune reports that Abercrombie & Kent, "which contracted to market and reserve flights on a planned suborbital space plane has filed a $3.4 million lawsuit against its partner" alleging that the rocketship company "has stopped all work on the project." (That would be RkP's XP vehicle project, not Rocketplane's K-1 business, which is what is at issue on the COTS side.)
According to the Tribune, "Abercrombie & Kent says it spent $1 million drawing up a marketing plan for the zero-gravity plane only to see Rocketplane Kistler's corporate board move in April to abandon the project, according to a lawsuit filed recently in DuPage County Circuit Court."
The Tribune (which couldn't resist the rather tabloid-y headline, "Space tourism in limbo, suit says") reports Rocketplane business development associate George French III "denied that the company has abandoned the project," and said, "We've been moving forward...." (Perhaps the "new configuration" of the Rocketplane XP reportedly to be unveiled at the X Prize Cup could serve as evidence of that.)
And French charged Abercrombie & Kent is "trying to weasel out of the contract." (I'm not sure if this was meant to suggest a counter suit by Rocketplane. In any case, apparently the contract included a mediation clause, or the parties had agreed to mediation, but unfortunately that option fell through although it would have been most advisable for a company trying to find money to build expensive space vehicles not foot bills for costly litigation.)
I'll predict this settles. But whatever happens in the lawsuit, it is a first. Indeed, space tourism appears certainly to have arrived as a real business if space transportation companies are wrangling over millions in fees with their space travel marketing firms....