Friday, January 16, 2009

Big Space stops SpaceX & Orbital Sciences ISS cargo contract awards

Mere days after NASA awarded twin ISS cargo contracts to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, the thinly disquised start-up created by Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and Alliant Techsystems (aka "Planet Space") has filed a complaint with the GAO (Government Accountability Office) forcing NASA to suspend work.

The contracts, between them worth $3.5 billion, was awarded to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences last month for 20 ATV cargo flights to the International Space Station after the Space Shuttle is presently scheduled for retirement in 2010.

The GAO gave NASA 30 days to comment on the protest and said it would issue a ruling April 29.

According to a Reuters report, "Planet Space" claims their proposal, "represented better value to the government," and "we believe the GAO will find flaws in the procurement that justify awarding the contract to PlanetSpace. We look forward to the GAO's review of this case."

"NASA decided to use commercial contractors for deliveries to the space station rather than relying on the Russian Progress cargo vehicles, which also transport cargo to the $100 billion orbital complex, a project of 16 nations that has been under construction for more than a decade.

Russia will transport U.S. astronauts to and from the station on its Soyuz capsules after the shuttles are retired in 2010. The proposed shuttle replacement will not be ready to fly until about 2015."

The possibility that an award to the Military-Industrial might represented by "Planet Space" as a combined effort of three corporate giants fed by federal contracts for generations might represent an anti-trust violation has not yet been addressed.

In addition, the legal efforts by these companies, well-represented in Washington, and the possible opening of unexpected opposition to true commercial space start-ups from established companies has presented a new and unexpected concern for NewSpace entrepreneurs.

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