Sierra Nevada Protests NASA's CCtCAP Awards

Sierra Nevada Protests NASA's CCtCAP Awards

This story has been updated throughout.

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has filed a protest over NASA’s award of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCAP) contracts to Boeing and SpaceX last week.  Noting that this is the first time it has filed a legal challenge to a government contract award in its 51-year history, the company said in this case there are “serious questions and inconsistencies in the source selection process.”

In a press release issued late this afternoon, SNC said that with the awards to Boeing and SpaceX, the government “would spend up to $900 million more … for a space program equivalent to what SNC proposed.”   NASA’s CCtCAP solicitation “prioritized price as the primary evaluation criteria … setting it equal to the combined value of the other two primary evaluation criteria: mission suitability and past performance” and its Dream Chaser was the “second lowest priced proposal,” SNC continues.   Asserting that its design provides “a wider range of capabilities and value including preserving the heritage of the space shuttle program,” it believes that a  “thorough review of the award decision” is needed.

NASA has been supporting Sierra Nevada, Boeing and SpaceX under the current phase of the commercial crew program, called Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCAP).   Last week’s CCtCAP decision is intended to begin the final phase of the program whose goal is to develop a U.S. capability to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) beginning around 2017.   NASA has not been able to launch people into space since the space shuttle was terminated in 2011 and currently pays Russia for such services.   The commercial crew program is a public-private partnership where the government and the private sector share the development costs and the government provides a market for the resulting services.

NASA was not expected to be able to support all three of its current partners into the CCtCAP phase.  The agency has not revealed how many bids there were, but obviously there were at least those three.  NASA awarded a total of $6.8 billion for CCtCAP:  $4.2 billion to Boeing and $2.6 billion to SpaceX.

Sierra Nevada’s design is the only winged vehicle.  The Boeing and SpaceX designs both are capsules.

The possibility that SNC might file a protest was first reported by Frank Morring at Aviation Week & Space Technology yesterday.  Today was the deadline for filing a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO).   James Dean at Florida Today seemed to be first on Twitter (@flatoday_jdean) to break the story today, about 3 hours ago, that the protest had in fact been filed.

Note:  this story was updated about 10 minutes after it was originally published when Sierra Nevada issued its press release.

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