Boeing accused in lawsuit of stealing trade secrets for NASA rocket

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – Boeing was sued on Wednesday by a Colorado company that accused the aerospace giant of stealing trade secrets for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, and then building components with “critical” safety flaws that could endanger astronauts.

Wilson Aerospace said it worked with Boeing for two years starting in 2014 after Boeing, fearing the loss of billions of dollars of NASA revenue, sought its help in safely attaching engines to the rocket.

According to a complaint filed in Seattle federal court, Boeing then canceled Wilson’s work on the project yet kept using its intellectual property without receiving “full instructions” on how to build and install it, creating safety risks.

“Boeing has captured billions of dollars in revenue because of the infringement of Wilson’s trade secrets,” and must turn over “all revenues and profits Boeing has obtained as a result,” the complaint said.

Wilson also said Boeing stole trade secrets related to bolt installation tools for its 787 Dreamliner aircraft. It said Boeing had asked it to design the tools in 2012.

“This lawsuit is rife with inaccuracies and omissions,” Boeing, based in Arlington, Virginia, said in a statement. “We will vigorously defend against this in court.”

Wilson is based in Fort Collins, Colorado, and comprised of its founder David Wilson, his son and his wife. The company is also seeking triple damages.

Boeing has described NASA’s Space Launch System as the most powerful rocket ever built, and “the backbone for a permanent human presence in deep space.”

First launched last Nov. 16 on a crewless flight, the rocket is part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to put astronauts on the moon for the first time since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

NASA is short for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The case is Wilson Aerospace LLC v Boeing Co, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, No. 23-00847.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy)