Report: Boeing Ranked Ahead of SpaceX, Sierra Nevada on Commercial Crew

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Andy Pasztor of The Wall Street Journal has obtained a copy of NASA’s Commercial Crew source selection statement, and he says the space agency ranked Boeing’s proposal for its CST-100 spacecraft higher in every major category than SpaceX’s Dragon vehicle.

Meanwhile, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s unsuccessful bid was marked technical and schedule uncertainties related to the complex hardware and software required for the company’s Dream Chaser space shuttle, according to the story.

Boeing’s submission was considered “excellent” for “mission suitability,” whereas SpaceX got a “very good” ranking. The numerical scores for that category, according to one person familiar with the details, were separated by more than 60 points out of a possible 1,000. The document shows Boeing also garnered the highest ranking of “excellent” for technical approach and program management, compared with “very good” rankings for SpaceX.

Based on Boeing’s performance on a preliminary contract, NASA concluded it had “very high confidence” in that company’s likelihood of delivering what it promised—the highest ranking possible….

Neither Boeing nor SpaceX were deemed to have what NASA considered significant weaknesses in their proposals. But in explaining his final decision, Mr. Gerstenmaier pointed to what he saw as some uncertainties and shortcomings in SpaceX’s bid. They included reduced government insight into certain program details and SpaceX’s intention to install parts that haven’t been specially manufactured and tested to guard against negative impacts from radiation….

The veteran NASA official said SpaceX’s “transition from cargo to crew” capsules is likely to be more complex than others inside NASA had projected, and he worried about SpaceX’s responsiveness to government requests or direction. In addition, Mr. Gerstenmaier expressed concerns about the company’s previous performance along with a “plan to develop its own docking system and space suit.”

Overall, according to Mr. Gerstenmaier’s analysis, “schedule planning was a recurring issue on SpaceX’s projects” over the years.

Last month, NASA awarded Boeing a $4.2 billion contract and SpaceX a contract worth $2.6 billion to develop and fly their crew transports by the end of 2017. Sierra Nevada filed a formal protest, which the government has 100 days to rule on.

Editor’s Note: This story is behind a pay wall, but if you search for it on Google and then click on the link, you should be able to view it.