GAO: PlanetSpace Appeal Rejected Due to Subcontracting, Financial Concerns

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The Government Accountability Office has released a document that explains why it denied PlanetSpace’s appeal of NASA’s decision to award commercial launch contracts to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation.

The space agency awarded the COTS contracts for space station resupply in December. PlanetSpace subsequently appealed, saying that its bid was denied despite ranking higher than Orbital Sciences’ proposal.

In rejecting the appeal, GAO said NASA had legitimate concerns about PlanetSpace’s plan to outsource a lot of the work to subcontractors. Although the subcontractors – Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Alliant Techsystems – had plenty of relevant experience, PlanetSpace as a company did not.

1. Protest is denied in procurement for commercial resupply services for International Space Station where source selection authority reasonably determined that outstanding and very good past performance of protester’s proposed subcontractors did not warrant an overall significant strength where protester itself lacked significant relevant past performance and technical expertise, leaving subcontractors responsible for technical performance and approximately [REDACTED]% of overall contract effort.

The GAO’s decision also cited the financial risks of PlanetSpace’s bid:

2. Protest is denied in procurement for commercial resupply services for International Space Station where agency reasonably ascertained significant financial risk to the government from protester’s proposal under fixed-price prime contract to subcontract technical performance and approximately [REDACTED]% of overall contract effort; significant development and integration work, the risk and cost of which was underestimated, was to be performed by subcontracting on a cost basis; protester’s business case, although reflecting additional unrealistically optimistic assumptions, nevertheless assumed that cost of performing would exceed contract payments until last year of contract; protester had limited contract management resources; and protester, a recently organized entity, proposed to finance performance using only minimal internal financial resources, depending instead on debt financing and obtaining additional investment for nearly all of performance costs.

Read the full document.