ITT Corp.’s past performance and technical and management approaches helped it beat Honeywell last fall to win a NASA space communications network services contract potentially worth $1.26 billion, according to NASA source selection documents.

Columbia, Md.-based Honeywell Technology Solutions, the incumbent on the contract since 2003, filed a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) over NASA’s decision to award ITT’s Herndon, Va.-based Advanced Engineering and Sciences division a five-year Space Communications Network Services contract to maintain and operate the NASA Space and Near Earth Networks. The GAO has until March 16 to rule on the protest.

Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies of Greenbelt, Md., also bid on the contract, but the competition came down to ITT and Honeywell, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for space operations, wrote in the newly released source selection documents.

“Overall, the evaluation presented by the [Source Evaluation Board] resulted in an extremely competitive procurement between Honeywell and ITT,” Gerstenmaier wrote.

ITT’s proposal rated higher than Honeywell’s for past performance because of its “excellent” performance on contracts during the past three years that were similar in size, content and complexity, while Gerstenmaier attributed Honeywell’s lower scores to “inconsistent implementation of quality systems engineering practices” on the Space Network contract.

Cost was not a basis for the decision because ITT’s total proposed cost was nearly identical to Honeywell’s, but Gerstenmaier favored ITT’s detailed risk and benefits assessment, approach to work flow and plan for sharing employees across missions to increase efficiency. Honeywell showed an exceptional understanding of schedule and challenges but proposed solutions without adequate analysis or justification, Gerstenmaier wrote.

“Honeywell’s proposal utilized inappropriate sources for availability values and proposed candidate architectures without providing substantiating documentation,” he said.

The core portion of the five-year contract is a cost-plus-award-fee deal covering the operation and maintenance of NASA’s Space Network, which consists of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellites, and ground systems primarily located at White Sands, N.M., and Guam. NASA uses the Space Network to communicate with the international space station, the Hubble Space Telescope and Earth-orbiting science satellites.

The contract also includes an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity portion covering the operation and maintenance of NASA’s Near Earth Network, with most of that work to be performed at White Sands; Wallops Flight Facility on ‘s eastern shore; the Merritt Island Launch Annex in ; and McMurdo Station in .

Honeywell based its protest on what company officials said was NASA’s failure to properly evaluate the technical, cost and past performance aspects of its and ITT’s proposals. Company spokeswoman Cathy Gedvilas said the Honeywell would not comment while the GAO is reviewing the protest.

ITT officials have said they anticipate that NASA’s selection would be upheld.