Boeing Sues Virgin Galactic Over Unpaid Invoices, Intellectual Property


Boeing, on behalf of its subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, filed a lawsuit against Virgin Galactic for alleged unpaid bills and misappropriation of proprietary trade secrets. According to the March 21 filing, as reported by, Mojave, California-based Virgin Galactic contracted with Aurora in July 2022 to design and build two new “mothership” aircraft designed to launch Virgin’s suborbital space vehicles. The first was to be delivered in 2025, designed to replace Virgin Galactic’s VMS Eve launch platform.

Virginia-based Aurora has a history of innovative concept projects, including a 2002 demonstration aircraft designed to study atmospheric aspects of flying on Mars. It reached an altitude of 100,000 feet to simulate the low density of the atmosphere on the red planet. Another project in 2008 involved developing an uncrewed aircraft with a 1,000-pound payload designed to remain aloft in the stratosphere for five years under solar power. Boeing acquired Aurora in 2017.

The Boeing lawsuit claims that work on the Virgin Galactic project stopped after completion of the second “task order” in May 2023. According to language in the filing, “Aurora concluded that it would not be possible for Virgin Galactic to produce the new Mothership Virgin Galactic wanted, on the budget available to it, on the timeline Virgin Galactic hoped to meet.” The suit claims invoices for work performed totaling $26.4 million have not been paid, despite multiple attempts to resolve the dispute.

Boeing and Aurora also claim that Virgin Galactic refused to destroy proprietary technical specifications that model aircraft stability and control performance, and also proprietary data on composite construction. The “trade secrets” were inadvertently provided to Virgin Galactic as work on the mothership design progressed, according to the suit.

Virgin Galactic did not immediately return an AVweb phone request for comment, but told SpaceNews, “We believe this lawsuit is wrong on the facts and the law, and we will vigorously defend ourselves in the appropriate forum.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. Sounds like a cash crunch has been in the making. Not surprising considering all of the other costs that are beginning to pile up due to all of the Boeing mishaps. The more the FAA looks, flying customers see, law suits pile up and carrier orders fall off, the more expensive it is to stay alive much less operate, or, break even for that matter. Boeing is in a world of hurt with no way out as far as I can see barring a government bail out.

  2. What’s a few more trillion added to the US debt for a Boeing bailout?

    Build Boeing Back Better Before Boeing Bails.

  3. Compadres: In light of Boeing’s lawsuit against Virgin Galactic, a constructive approach demands both companies swiftly address their legal and financial disputes to minimize harm to the aerospace industry. This situation underscores the critical need for clear contracts, respect for intellectual property, and open communication. It’s imperative for Boeing and Virgin Galactic to resolve their differences not just for their sake but to uphold the spirit of innovation and collaboration that propels the aerospace sector forward. Failure to do so not only tarnishes their reputations but also risks stifling technological advancement. Both entities must act responsibly and find a resolution that emphasizes integrity and the greater good of industry progress.

      • He was smoking good sense, thing that a lot of commentators don’t have, as seems by the exemple of the asking person.

    • Raf, I’m sure that you meant to say “assuming that Boeing’s quality control and concern for risk management met the high standards Virgin Galactic has always demonstrated, a constructive …”

      • Exactly! This is the opinion and approach I would take as well. Nothing good comes from sh1t talking to or about anyone or any company.

    • Tarnishes? I think Boeing’s reputation is well beyond tarnished and getting into the territory of being corroded down into the base metal and barely maintaining its structural integrity.

    • In terms of the contracted matter, yes. In terms of the IP unintentionally supplied to Virgin, that’s a problem. Boeing/Aurora may own it, but the cat is out of the bag, and it ain’t going back in.

  4. Who knows for sure, but Galactic could be on the way to making money, which would put it in the spotlight of Boeing, who are looking under the furniture for pennies…
    Going to law is seldom profitable though, except for lawyers… Especially for projects which do not fly.

  5. Thank you all for your group bonding perspectives. It’s clear that feelings run high when arguing about the challenges and the future of Boeing. While recognizing Boeing’s past and present troubles is important, I believe centering on solving for recovery is imperative. Constantly bad-mouthing Boeing is unproductive. It misses the bigger picture: THE NEED TO FIND SOLUTIONS. It’s key to understand that endless, demoralizing negative criticism, lacking any intent to provide solutions, leaves little space for growth or positive change. Instead, it’s disheartening, erosive, cultivating an environment of unproductivity and pessimism.

    • Agree. Most of the naysayers have never been in a Boeing plant or flown a Boeing product. Luckily they don’t actually manage a company with difficulties––”…okay lets just close up shop, fire everyone, and go out of business.” I remember the same kind of doom-speak after a brand new Airbus A320 crashed into trees during a fly-by in 1988. “It’s the end for Airbus. May as well close up shop now!”

      Thankfully smarter people will be finding the solutions and doing the fixing.

  6. I agree 100% with Raf Bipes4evr,
    Absolutely nothing good comes from the failure of Boeing. They need 100% support as they seek accountability, inspection & quality control changes.

  7. Don’t forget that Boeing, Lockheed and McDonald Douglas is why we have aircraft that can stay in the air for many hours and last for many hours. I agree that the industry needs to stay cohesive for the sake of new products, but Boeing has an internal issue that needs to be addressed and a change in corporate focus, particularly with upper management, but they are still an amazing company that builds an amazing product.

  8. Boeing could stop building airliners tomorrow and their business would continue on just fine. Their military, space and related entities are able to support the Company long after the last 737-whatever rolls out the plant. Lockheed took a similar approach years ago; hence why there are no more L1011’s or a modern equivalent, but C130’s continue to be produced unabated. Should they continue to build airliners? Absolutely, but with the advancement in materials and technology, it’s time to leave the technology of the 60’s through 00’s behind and build a truly modern airliner that airlines both want and need.

    • Yep, the 737 has pretty well run its course and the follow-on should be heavily into design now. Hard to believe that the mostly composite 787 has been in service for over a decade. Time to move on.