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Thu, Jan 22, 2004

Intergalactic Battle Brews As Spacehab Sues NASA

Equipment Loss Cited As Main Beef Against Agency

Spacehab Inc., maker of the living modules used in the U.S. space shuttle fleet, slapped NASA with a big lawsuit on Tuesday, as it tries to recoup its losses from the tragic Columbia crash. The company filed an $87.7 million formal claim against the space agency for equipment destroyed during the shuttle disaster last year. Spacehab bases the merits of its case on the recent findings of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB).

Spacehab, which had filed a draft claim in July, said it revised its newest claim to incorporate the findings of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board report. The CAIB said in August that NASA officials missed eight chances to address fears that falling insulation foam may have damaged the shuttle, which broke apart over Texas last Feb. 1, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

The foam that tumbled from the ship's external tank just after takeoff was ultimately found to be the accident's likely cause. Houston-based Spacehab said it was in "discussions" with NASA with the goal of settling the claim as soon as possible. NASA spokesman Doc Mirelson said he had not seen Spacehab's claim and had no immediate comment.

The company, which also trains astronauts, said its contract with NASA included a provision that accounted for loss or damage to its flight hardware up to $8 million. Spacehab's final claim also includes millions of dollars for "losses in addition to those contractually specified."  However, the company said in a statement it does not know when or how much it will receive for its claim from NASA.



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