WASHINGTON — Exploration Systems and Technology (EST), a joint venture of Hamilton Sundstrand and ILC Dover is protesting NASA’s award of a new spacesuit contract to a rival team led by Oceaneering International of Houston.

NASA announced June 12 it had awarded Oceaneering and its team a contract worth $183.8 million initially to design, develop and test a new spacesuit system for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, which will take astronauts to the international space station starting around 2015 and eventually the Moon. The contract’s basic performance period runs through September pair of options worth a combined $562.1 million could take the contract out through September 2018.

Hamilton Sundstrand and ILC Dover, who are responsible for NASA’s current spacesuit, were debriefed on the agency’s decision formally July 10. They filed a protest July 14 with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), an investigative arm of Congress that also mediates federal contracting disputes.

“During the meeting between NASA and EST, we felt the debriefing did not provide us adequate information as to how the decision was made and some of the explanations raised other significant questions about the entire evaluation process. Therefore we will challenge the decision to assure ourselves that the process was conducted fairly and properly,” Dan Coulom, a spokesman for Windsor Locks, Conn.-based Hamilton Sundstrand told Space News in a July 15 e-mail.

“NASA is reviewing the filing and declines to comment further while the GAO considers EST’s protest,” NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz said in a July 15 e-mail.

Oceaneering spokesman James Buchli said in a written statement the company respects the GAO process, adding: “We continue to believe our team offered an innovative and comprehensive solution to develop and produce the next spacesuit for NASA. We look forward to a timely resolution, and we remain fully committed and prepared to meet all requirements of the Constellation spacesuit program.”

The GAO has 100 days to rule on bid protests.

Oceaneering’s teammates include Air-Lock Inc. of , David Clark Co. of Worcester, , Cimarron Software Services Inc. of Houston, Harris Corp. of Palm Bay, , Honeywell International Inc. of , Paragon Space Development Corp. of , and United Space Alliance of Houston. David Clark Co. and Air-Lock would produce the pressure suit; Honeywell and Paragon would produce the avionics and some life support components. Harris would produce the suit’s communication system.