Losing bidders won’t protest NASA commercial cargo awards

by

WASHINGTON — Two major aerospace companies that failed to win multibillion-dollar contracts from NASA earlier this month to transport cargo to and from the International Space Station said they have no plans to protest the agency’s decision with the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Representatives of Boeing and Lockheed Martin told SpaceNews that they have been debriefed by NASA about the agency’s selection of Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation and SpaceX for Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) 2 contracts awarded Jan. 14, and are satisfied with the agency’s explanations.

Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Allison Rakes said Jan. 26 that the company received a “thorough” debriefing from NASA after learning it would not receive a CRS-2 contract. “We’ve chosen not to protest,” she said.

“Whereas we are disappointed that we were not selected for NASA’s CRS-2 contract, we remain fully committed in supporting NASA” and its work on the ISS, said Wanda Sigur, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s civil space line of business, in a statement.

Lockheed Martin proposed to use a reusable tug, called Jupiter, which would move cargo modules called Exoliners to and from the station. That technology, the company said when unveiling its plans last year, could have other applications, such as for satellite servicing.

“We knew our reusable approach was unique and addressed a broader set of mission goals, and although NASA chose to take another direction for ISS resupply, we are proud of this technology and believe it can support future exploration goals,” Sigur said.

Artist's concept of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule approaching the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Boeing
Artist’s concept of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule approaching the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Boeing

Boeing learned in November that NASA had rejected its CRS-2 proposal, which used a cargo version of the CST-100 Starliner vehicle the company is developing for NASA’s commercial crew efforts. Company spokeswoman Kelly Kaplan said Jan. 25 that the company had received a debrief from NASA and elected not to file a protest.

Kaplan said Boeing would wait to provide more details about its decision until after NASA released the CRS-2 source selection statement that describes the agency’s evaluation of the proposals and its rationale for picking the winning companies. At the Jan. 14 briefing to announce the contracts, NASA officials said source selection details would be published in the “near future,” but did not offer a specific schedule for releasing that information.

That outcome is different from what happened to NASA’s commercial crew program, which faced a GAO protest filed by Sierra Nevada after the agency awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX in September 2014. The GAO ruled against Sierra Nevada in January 2015.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin, along with Orbital, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX, were the five major companies that competed for CRS-2 contracts. NASA officials did not give a total value of the contracts, saying the value depended on the type and timing of the missions it will order from each company, but Orbital estimated its CRS-2 contract was worth $1.2–1.5 billion.

Boeing and Lockheed’s decisions not to protest also runs counter to trends in overall government contracting, where protests are increasingly common. According to a July 2015 report by the Congressional Research Service, the GAO closed 1,138 protests in fiscal year 2014 of contracts awarded by civilian agencies, compared to just 565 protests ten years earlier. The GAO sustained only 41 protests in 2014.