NASA Halts Billion Dollar Space Taxi Project Due to Sierra Nevada Protest
After rewarding multi-billion dollar contracts last month to SpaceX and Boeing for next generation space taxis to ferry humans to the International Space Station, NASA has suddenly pulled the plug on this massive space project.
(Photo : Sierra Nevada/NASA) Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser on the runway at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at dawn
This move was sparked by private space company, Sierra Nevada, that filed a protest against this contract after losing its bid. NASA now requests SpaceX and Boeing to stop all operations related to this project.
Boeing and SpaceX were awarded contracts amounting to US$6.8 billion for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). Sierra Nevada competed against both private aerospace companies.
The CCP contracts entail full financial coverage of the project. This coverage includes all developmental phases and testing that will finally lead to the completion of the project and the staging of operational flights.
The contracts require a minimum of two flights to a maximum of four flights. Boeing and SpaceX should be able to perform at least one test flight with the presence of a NASA representative.
After the announcement of the winners last September 16, Sierra Nevada filed a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and demanded a detailed evaluation of the proposals submitted.
Unfortunately, this legal protest halted all operations currently coverd by these contracts, said NASA’s Public Affairs Office. It’s still unclear if Boeing and SpaceX can still continue operations even if they using their own funds.
Sierra Nevada is still awaiting GAO’s response to their protest and it might take as long as January 5, 2015 for GAO to release a decision. Sierra Nevada claims there were inconsistencies in the selection process. Contracts will be immediately be changed if GAO finds irregularities in the awarding process.
In a bizarre series of events, NASA chose both SpaceX and Boeing over Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser despite Boeing’s CST-100 and SpaceX’s Dragon V.2 spacecraft having crashed during their test flights.
NASA has still not released an explanation as to why it decided to award the contracts to SpaceX and Boeing as opposed to Sierra Nevada.