Washington — NASA’s decision to award a $1.09 billion contract to build up to four next-generation weather satellites was based on the company offering a lower price than runner-up Boeing Satellite Systems coupled with a better design for accommodating the satellites’ instruments, according to source selection documents.
NASA is reconsidering those factors as it reconvenes its source evaluation board and prepares to award a new contract for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R-series (GOES-R). NASA announced Feb. 17 it was taking a fresh look at proposals from El Segundo, Calif.-based Boeing Satellite Systems and Denver-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems in response to Boeing’s formal protest to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The protest was dismissed Feb. 20, and NASA intends to make a decision “in a timely manner” to avoid a slip in the GOES-R schedule, NASA spokesman Michael Cabbage said in a Feb. 26 e-mail. No date has been established for a new selection decision, Cabbage said.
GOES-R is a joint program between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the space agency is responsible for selecting the contractor to build the spacecraft. NOAA is reviewing proposals for GOES-R ground processing and plans to announce its selection in June.
NASA announced Dec. 2 it had selected Lockheed Martin for the GOES-R satellite contract over Boeing and a third competitor, Northrop Grumman Space and Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif. Northrop Grumman scored the lowest in the competition, while Boeing came in at a close second, according to the source selection documents.
In ranking Boeing and Lockheed Martin, George Morrow, NASA’s director of flight projects, praised Lockheed Martin’s plan to isolate the GOES-R Earth-pointing instruments from the spacecraft to prevent spacecraft-generated interference. GOES-R will carry a suite of six instruments including the Advanced Baseline Imager to track cloud formation and severe storms, and a Lockheed Martin-built Geostationary Lightning Mapper for forecasting storm hazards.
“The significant strength for instrument accommodation is particularly compelling,” Morrow wrote of Lockheed Martin’s proposal. “I find that the instrument accommodation proposed by [Lockheed Martin] significantly enhances the potential for contract success to a degree unmatched by any other finding among all three proposals.”
Morrow also said Lockheed Martin’s proposed communications subsystem exceeded contract requirements and “significantly reduces performance risk” for the GOES-R missions.
Boeing earned high marks for its proposed system architecture, which would automate or eliminate impacts caused by spacecraft maneuvers or yaw flip activities, and for early testing on key subsystems prior to flight integration.
“The early testing will significantly reduce risk for the subsequent satellites, if additional technical issues are encountered,” Morrow wrote.
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin offered the government a price that was 6 percent lower than the price proposed by Boeing, the source selection documents said.
Morrow said that he placed greater importance on Lockheed Martin’s strengths than those he recognized in Boeing’s proposal. He also cited the price difference.
“I conclude that the [Lockheed Martin] proposal presents a better technical approach with a lower cost to meeting the GOES-R requirements,” Morrow wrote.
Lockheed Martin spokesman Steve Tatum said company officials remain convinced that they submitted the proposal with “the best technical and cost value to NASA/NOAA as reflected in the award decision.”
“We are confident that following NASA’s corrective action our proposal will remain the winning proposal,” Tatum said in a March 6 written statement.
Boeing, which is manufacturing the current generation of GOES satellites known as the N series, filed its protest Dec. 15, after NASA debriefed all three bidders. Angie Chen, a company spokeswoman, referred requests for comment regarding the new contract deliberations to NASA. At the time of the protest, Boeing officials said the protest was “based on our belief, in light of the information that has been provided to this point, that we offered a superior proposal under the disclosed evaluation criteria.”
The Government Accountability Office dismissed Boeing’s protest after being notified by NASA that it intended to re-evaluate proposals and make a new award.