NASA to Press Ahead with Private Spacecraft Contracts

Last month, NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX to develop private spacecraft capable of ferrying crew to and from the International Space Station – something beyond the capabilities of the US space program since the Shuttle fleet was retired.  However, as happens all too often in our litigious society, one of the companies not selected filed a protest with the GAO, resulting in at least a temporary suspension of those contracts.

Today, NASA exercised its authority to proceed with the contracts, finding that doing so is in the best interest of the nation.  NASA found that regaining the capability of taking astronauts to and from the ISS reduces risks to the crew, risks to the ISS, and risks that international agreements could be violated.

Here is the press release from NASA:

NASA Exercises Authority to Proceed with Commercial Crew Contracts

On Sept. 16, NASA announced U.S. astronauts once again will travel to and from the International Space Station (ISS) from the United States on American spacecraft under groundbreaking contracts. The agency unveiled its selection of Boeing and SpaceX to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station using their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft, respectively, with a goal of ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia in 2017. 

On Sept. 26, Sierra Nevada Corporation filed a protest of the commercial crew contracts with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Pursuant to the GAO protest, NASA instructed Boeing and SpaceX to suspend performance of the contracts. 

On Oct. 9, under statutory authority available to it, NASA has decided to proceed with the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded to The Boeing Company and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. notwithstanding the bid protest filed at the U.S. Government Accountability Office by Sierra Nevada Corporation. The agency recognizes that failure to provide the CCtCap transportation service as soon as possible poses risks to the International Space Station (ISS) crew, jeopardizes continued operation of the ISS, would delay meeting critical crew size requirements, and may result in the U.S. failing to perform the commitments it made in its international agreements. These considerations compelled NASA to use its statutory authority to avoid significant adverse consequences where contract performance remained suspended. NASA has determined that it best serves the United States to continue performance of the CCtCap contracts that will enable safe and reliable travel to and from the ISS from the United States on American spacecraft and end the nation’s sole reliance on Russia for such transportation.

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One response to “NASA to Press Ahead with Private Spacecraft Contracts”

  1. John Burnette says :

    I, for one, had been cheering for the Dreamchaser. First, it’s a seriously sexy design, that’s got to count for something. Second I thought the connection with Paul Allen was worth something, if for no other reason than to pop the reality distortion bubble that is all things Elon Musk.

    It seems, though, that SNC and Mr Allen are pressing ahead regardless of the outcome of their suit. I hope that the outcome is a commercial presence in space that’s truly independent of governments. We’ll see.

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