NASA Cargo Awards Draw New PlanetSpace Protest

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WASHINGTON – Chicago-based PlanetSpace has filed a second protest of NASA’s December 2008 decision to award $3.1 billion in contracts to Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences Corp. and Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) for delivering cargo to the international space station.

PlanetSpace filed a protest with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims July 23 asking for NASA to reconsider the awards or reopen the competition. PlanetSpace’s first protest against the NASA award was filed with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Jan. 14. The GAO denied the protest April 22.

PlanetSpace, a start-up company whose subcontractors include Boeing Co. of Chicago, Denver-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Minneapolis-based Alliant Techsystems, earned a higher score and offered a lower price than Orbital Sciences.

NASA, however, selected Orbital Sciences and SpaceX to haul 20 tons of cargo to the space station through 2016 under separate contracts potentially worth more than $3 billion. The initial award calls for SpaceX to provide 12 flights for $1.6 billion and Orbital Sciences to provide eight flights for $1.9 billion.

SpaceX earned the highest score from NASA’s Source Evaluation Board and offered the lowest price, followed by PlanetSpace, which earned the second highest score, NASA source selection documents show.

NASA spokeswoman Ashley Edwards declined to comment on the ongoing legal matter, but SpaceX Vice President of Strategic Relations Lawrence Williams said Aug. 6 that while the company does not comment on ongoing litigation, “… we do not anticipate any disruption of our progress within our NASA programs.”