Sierra Nevada protests NASA manned spacecraft contact award

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The competition heats up: Sierra Nevada has formally protested NASA’s decision to award Boeing and SpaceX manned spacecraft contracts.

The company said late Friday that its bid in the NASA Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCTCap) was $900 million less than the bid submitted by Boeing, which won a contract worth as much as $4.2 billion to complete development, test fly and operate its CST-100 crew capsule. At the same time, SNC said, its proposal was “near equivalent [in] technical and past performance” source-selection scoring.

“[T]he official NASA solicitation for the CCtCap contract prioritized price as the primary evaluation criteria for the proposals, setting it equal to the combined value of the other two primary evaluation criteria: mission suitability and past performance,” the company stated. “SNC’s Dream Chaser proposal was the second lowest priced proposal in the CCtCap competition.”

In other words, they are challenging NASA’s decision to pick Boeing over them, as their proposal was far cheaper.

We all know that Boeing got the contract as much for its political clout as for its technical expertise. NASA wanted to make sure that members of Congress who promote the Boeing jobs in their districts would have nothing to complain about. Whether Sierra Nevada can get the government to look past that political clout is very doubtful, though I think I support them whole-heartedly in their effort.



  • Doug

    Then again they could just take all the money being spent on SLS and split it between SpaceX and Dream Chaser and actually have a working heavy lift vehicle by 2017.

  • Kelly Starks

    Reports I read were that they hadn’t stated which of the 2 competitors they were protesting? Protesting they had similar technical quality to Boeing seems laughable given what we’ve seen on the two programs here, or what they said? I.E. they expected Boeing would be the high cost, high quality option, but they could compete with acceptable quality at lower cost. So this confuses me.

    Also if both Boeing and SNCs CCDev projects are on hold due to legal conflicts this could hold up the program to the point the political interest in doing CCDev at all goes away. (at the least further layoffs on both Boeing and SNC teams [like the Boeing and Dream Chaser support contracts here at Orbitech] could shut down.)

  • Matt in AZ

    While I’m not a big fan of the current trend of filing protests in the wake of losing out in large government contracts, there is some irony here in that it was Boeing who kicked off that trend. In 2008, it lost out to EADS (Airbus) on a major USAF tanker fleet competition, and then used all its legal and political might to successfully have that decision overturned and the contract awarded to them. All this, despite having been involved in a major corruption scandal that sent the preceding tanker deal down in flames.

  • geoffc

    To be fair, Dream Chaser is a space vehicle, not a booster (Relies on Atlas V, you may be thinking Blue Origin who want to build and orbital vehicle and a booster). However give SpaceX the money and they ought to be able to deliver a real heavy lift booster. Heck Falcon Heavy would suffice for most of the missions, and BFR for the rest. (Work on their 1+mLb thrust Raptor CH4/LOX is already underway on their own dime…)

  • Pzatchok

    Just cut the inflated Boeing budget by a third and give that cash to Dream Chaser.

    That way we stand a far better chance of actually getting a passenger craft into space.

    There is little hope Boeing would make its deadline anyways.
    It still doesn’t have a service module or rocket built so for all intents and purposes it should be a lot farther along than it is since all its building is a fancy dragon capsule.
    And since they are supposed to have all the capability and expertise they should be able to do it cheaper and faster than some small company doing this for the first time,

  • Kelly Starks

    Boeing wasn’t cutting as many quality corners as we were on SNC and SpaceX does. Which would drive costs up. Though being at least most of a year ahead of the others, I’ld think Boeing could do it cheaper since they were better able to make decisions and coordinate actions, so lower labor hours. Though they hired more experienced folks, which likely charged higher rtaes.

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