Updated: November 9, 2021 4:32:28 am
A US-based firm, Spaceflight Inc, which uses Indian Space Research Organisation rockets, among others to provide global space launch services, has moved a US court as an “interested party” in the wake of the US court allowing identification of assets of ISRO’s commercial arm Antrix Corporation for recovery of a $1.2 billion compensation award.
Spaceflight Inc, which signed up in 2019 to be the first user of ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle — which is still under development — and facilitated the launch of Brazil’s first satellite in February this year on ISRO’s PSLV-C51, moved the US federal court for the western district of Washington at the end of October.
The move comes in the wake of the US federal court order of August 16, 2021 allowing a Bengaluru start-up firm Devas Multimedia to identify assets of the Antrix Corporation in order to attach them for recovery of a US $1.3 billion compensation award made by an international tribunal over a failed 2005 satellite deal.
In the order the court said Devas investors can look at Antrix Corporation’s “relationships with the Government of India and NewSpace” as a part of the efforts to identify assets for attachment.
Three foreign investors in Devas Multimedia — CC/Devas Mauritius, Telcom Devas Mauritius and Devas Employees Mauritius Pvt Ltd — have argued in the US courts that New Space India Limited, a new ISRO commercial entity with which Spaceflight Inc has signed launch agreements, has been created by using assets that belong to Antrix Corporation.
Despite objections registered by Antrix Corporation in the US court against identifying assets on the basis of links of Antrix to the Government of India or New Space India Limited, the court allowed consideration of Government of India and New Space assets linked to Antrix for recovery of the $1.2 billion compensation award by Devas Multimedia. Antrix had argued in the court that both GoI and NSIL enjoy “foreign sovereign immunity”.
Among the things the US court has allowed foreign investors in Devas Multimedia to access for recovery of compensation is “all documents and communications” on transactions valued at more than $50,000 from Antrix Corporation to New Space India Ltd.
Spaceflight Inc has signed at least two commercial agreements with NSIL in the last couple of years (since NSIL was created by the Indian government) for space launches.
In 2019, Spaceflight Inc had announced the booking of a flight on ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle through an agreement signed with NSIL. The deal announced on August 8, 2019 by Spaceflight Inc was the first contract bagged by the then newly-created second commercial arm of ISRO.
Spaceflight said in August 2019 that it had clinched a deal with NSIL for using the second developmental flight of the under development SSLV rocket to launch a spacecraft for an “undisclosed US-based satellite constellation customer”.
On February 28, 2021, ISRO’s workhorse rocket, the PSLV, carried out NSIL’s first full-fledged commercial satellite launch with the 637 kg Amazonia 1 satellite launch for Brazil — a deal which was facilitated by the space launch services provider Spaceflight Inc.
Spaceflight has had nine launches in the past with ISRO involving over 100 spacecraft on the PSLV. The SSLV is an untested rocket that is being developed by ISRO. The SSLV can carry satellites weighing up to 500 kg to low earth orbit while the tried and tested PSLV can launch satellites weighing in the range of 1,000 kg.
The $1.2 billion compensation award to Devas Multimedia was made on September 14, 2015 by an ICC tribunal following cancellation in February 2011 by the Indian government of a January 2005 Devas Multimedia-Antrix deal for ISRO to launch two communication satellites for Devas to facilitate digital multimedia service on mobile and other platforms.
The compensation award was confirmed by the US court for the western district of Washington on October 27, 2020.
Under the 2005 deal, ISRO was supposed to lease two communication satellites for 12 years at a cost of Rs 167 crore to Devas Multimedia. The start-up firm was to provide multimedia services to mobile platforms in India using the space band or S-band spectrum transponders on ISRO’s GSAT 6 and 6A satellites built at a cost of Rs 766 crore by ISRO.
The deal was annulled by the UPA government in February 2011 amid the 2G scam crisis by citing the requirement of the S-band spectrum for security needs of the country. After the NDA government came to power in 2014, CBI and ED were asked to investigate the deal.
After the cancellation of the deal, foreign investors in Devas Multimedia — the German telecom major Deutsche Telekom, the three Mauritius-based foreign investors and Devas Multimedia — approached various international tribunals seeking damages for the failed deal.
While Deutsche Telekom was awarded a compensation of $101 million plus interest by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Geneva on May 27, 2020, the Mauritius investors were awarded a $111 million compensation (plus interest) by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law tribunal on October 13, 2020 and Devas Multimedia was awarded a compensation of $1.2 billion by an ICC tribunal on September 14, 2015.
Following the confirmation of the $1.2 billion compensation award by the US federal court, Antrix Corporation has gone in appeal to a US court against the order and the Supreme Court of India asked for the ICC award to be kept in abeyance with a November 4, 2020 order.
The NCLT, meanwhile, ordered the liquidation of Devas Multimedia on May 25, 2021 following a plea by Antrix Corporation.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.