DoD withdraws Defense Production Act small launch contract awards

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The U.S. government “will not award the identified contracts at this time.”

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department has reversed its decision to award contracts funded under the Defense Production Act to six small launch companies.

DoD announced on June 16 it selected Aevum, Astra, X-Bow, Rocket Lab, Space Vector and VOX Space to receive noncompetitive contracts to launch two rideshare missions for government customers over the next 24 months.

On July 1 DoD filed a “Notice of Contract Award (NOCA) Withdrawal” which was posted on SAM.gov

“The Government received several responses to the DPA Title 3 Funded Rideshare Services NOCA,” said the notice. “After review of the information, the Government is re-evaluating its strategy on how best to proceed with this action.” As a result, the solicitation is being withdrawn and the government “will not award the identified contracts at this time.”

The Defense Production Act Title 3 provisions invoked by the Trump administration allow DoD to invest in domestic suppliers to shore up industries financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A DoD spokesperson did not respond to questions from SpaceNews regarding this decision.

According to multiple industry sources, the selection of the six companies drew widespread criticism because it was unclear how these suppliers were selected over others. When contracts are awarded without an open competition, DoD by law has to file a “Justification & Approval” document explaining why an award was sole-sourced. No J&A documents were filed in this case.

DoD never released the amounts of the contracts it planned to award to the six companies. According to several sources, the amount for the six contracts was about $115 million.

A source familiar with the awards said congressional committees and officials from the Office of Management and Budget “expressed concern about both the structure of the awards and the recipients.”