Court Rejects Sierra Nevada Motion to Reinstate Commercial Crew Stop-Work Order

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Updated at 8:40 pm EDT

WASHINGTON — A federal court ruled against a motion by Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) Oct. 21 to reinstate a suspension of work by two companies on commercial crew contracts awarded by NASA last month.

Judge Marian Blank Horn issued the order after a hearing earlier in the day on a motion filed by Sierra Nevada with the Court of Federal Claims here Oct. 15 requesting that a stop-work order on two Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts that NASA overrode earlier in October be restored.

“Given the urgency to resolve the override issue, the court provided the parties with a verbal decision declining to overrule the override,” Horn wrote in a brief order issued by the court. The order did not explain the rationale for the decision, and the hearing was closed to the public.

“SNC is disappointed that the court did not reinstate the [Government Accountability Office]’s stay of work proceeding under the CCtCap contract award,” the company said in a statement issued late Oct. 21. “Nevertheless, SNC looks forward to the GAO’s ongoing evaluation of the critical protest issues identified in the filing.”

NASA had issued stop-work orders to Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. shortly after Sierra Nevada filed its protest of the CCtCap awards with the U.S. Government Accountability Office Sept. 26. In a statement announcing the protest, Sierra Nevada alleged there were “serious questions and inconsistencies” in NASA’s selection process.

On Oct. 9, NASA announced it was lifting the stop-work order, citing “statutory authority available to it” in order to keep the overall commercial crew effort on schedule. NASA warned of risks to operations of the international space station and NASA’s ability to meet its international commitments if the development of commercial crew systems was delayed.

Sierra Nevada then filed suit with the court, seeking to overrule NASA’s decision to override the stop-work order. The company argued that it could be harmed if Boeing and SpaceX were allowed to continue work on their contracts while the GAO reviewed the protest.

“NASA’s override is arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and is contrary to law,” Rogers Joseph O’Donnell, the law firm representing Sierra Nevada, argued in its request for an injunction. “The override constitutes NASA’s unreasonable decision unnecessarily and unjustifiably to direct the awardees to proceed with contract performance.”

The court’s decision does not affect Sierra Nevada’s protest itself. The GAO has until Jan. 5 to rule on that protest.

 

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