Tag: commercial crew

Judge Knocks Down SNC’s Motion for Commercial Crew Work Stoppage

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Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

A Federal Court of Claims judge has rejected a motion by the Sierra Nevada Corporation to re-impose a stop-work order on NASA’s commercial crew program, according to press reports. It is not immediately clear why Judge Marian Blank Horn rejected the motion.

NASA has initially ordered Boeing and SpaceX to stop work on commercial crew contracts the agency awarded the two companies while the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed an appeal by Sierra Nevada, which did not receive an award.

However, NASA later lifted the order, saying any delay would imperil efforts to keep the commercial crew program on schedule and meet its commitments for operating the International Space Station. Sierra Nevada subsequently appealed that decision.

The GAO has until Jan. 5 to rule on Sierra Nevada’s appeal of the commercial crew awards.

Court Holds Initial Hearing on Sierra Nevada’s Effort to Reimpose Commercial Crew Stop Work Order

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Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Marian Blank Horn heard initial arguments on Friday on a motion by Sierra Nevada Corporation to stop Boeing and SpaceX from continuing work on recently awarded NASA commercial crew contracts pending an appeal of the awards.

The judge did not rule on the motion, but set an additional hearing on Tuesday to hear further arguments, according to press reports.

Sierra Nevada has appealed the awards NASA has made to Boeing and SpaceX citing alleged irregularities in the process. NASA’s decisions left Sierra Nevada without additional government funding to complete its Dream Chaser shuttle.

NASA initially ordered Boeing and SpaceX to stop work under the contracts, but the space agency later reversed its decision. Sierra Nevada is seeking to reinstate the stop work order.

The Government Accountability Office has until early January to rule on Sierra Nevada’s protest of NASA’s commercial crew awards.

Sierra Nevada Files Suit to Reinstate Hold on Commercial Crew Work

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Space News reports that Sierra Nevada Corporation has filed suit to stop Boeing and SpaceX from continuing commercial crew work while the company’s appeal of the awards to the two companies is pending.

In filings with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, Sierra Nevada filed requests for both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to overturn a NASA decision Oct. 9 lifting an order stopping work on Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded Sept. 16 to Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

NASA had issued a stop-work order shortly after Sierra Nevada filed a protest regarding the CCtCap awards with the U.S. Government Accountability Office Sept. 26. On Oct. 9, NASA lifted the order, citing “statutory authority available to it” in order to keep the program on schedule.

NASA justified the decision by warning that any delay in carrying out the contracts “poses risks” to the international space station crew and could jeopardize operations of the station. “NASA has determined that it best serves the United States to continue performance of the CCtCap contracts,” the agency said in a statement posted on the commercial crew program website.

A hearing is scheduled for Friday morning.

Smith Praises Commercial Crew Winners, Then Tries to Stab One in Back

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Lamar Smith

Lamar Smith

Less than a month after praising Boeing and SpaceX for winning NASA Commercial Crew contracts, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is eager to stab one of them in the back.

“I congratulate Boeing and SpaceX on their achievements in the Commercial Crew Program. Both companies and the thousands of people they employ have a crucial task before them as they work to further U.S. space exploration,” Smith said in a Sept. 16 statement. “They also have a responsibility to the U.S. taxpayers who are making considerable contributions to the development of these commercial space capabilities.”

Three weeks later, Smith had apparently decided that two commercial crew providers was one too many.

“If Orion could provide a redundant capability as a fallback for the commercial crew partners, why is it necessary to carry two partners to ensure competition in the constrained budget environment?” Smith asked in an Oct. 7 letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. The letter was co-signed by House Science Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.).

My guess is that Bolden has explained why this wouldn’t work well to Congress many, many times. I’m also guessing that if NASA had to choose between commercial crew providers, it would probably select SpaceX because the company is further along toward crewed flights and costs far less than Boeing.

I’m not sure why Smith would take the risk of eliminating Boeing, which has  headquartered its commercial crew program in Houston.  Unless he believes the committee could force NASA to eliminate SpaceX and select Boeing despite the cost disparity.

Read Smith’s original statement of praise here. Space News has more details about the letter from Smith and Palazzo.

NASA Orders Boeing, SpaceX to Resume Commercial Crew Work

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WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — On Sept. 16, NASA announced U.S. astronauts once again will travel to and from the International Space Station (ISS) from the United States on American spacecraft under groundbreaking contracts. The agency unveiled its selection of Boeing and SpaceX to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station using their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft, respectively, with a goal of ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia in 2017.

On Sept. 26, Sierra Nevada Corporation filed a protest of the commercial crew contracts with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Pursuant to the GAO protest, NASA instructed Boeing and SpaceX to suspend performance of the contracts.

On Oct. 9, under statutory authority available to it, NASA has decided to proceed with the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded to The Boeing Company and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. notwithstanding the bid protest filed at the U.S. Government Accountability Office by Sierra Nevada Corporation. The agency recognizes that failure to provide the CCtCap transportation service as soon as possible poses risks to the International Space Station (ISS) crew, jeopardizes continued operation of the ISS, would delay meeting critical crew size requirements, and may result in the U.S. failing to perform the commitments it made in its international agreements. These considerations compelled NASA to use its statutory authority to avoid significant adverse consequences where contract performance remained suspended. NASA has determined that it best serves the United States to continue performance of the CCtCap contracts that will enable safe and reliable travel to and from the ISS from the United States on American spacecraft and end the nation’s sole reliance on Russia for such transportation.

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.

Continue reading ‘Report: Boeing Ranked Ahead of SpaceX, Sierra Nevada on Commercial Crew’

NASA Commercial Crew: Better Flying Through Software

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By Steven Siceloff
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

The new approach NASA is taking to get its crews to low-Earth orbit with commercial partnerships requires the space agency to closely examine the plans companies have for their own space transportation systems to ensure they are as safe and reliable as can be.

Continue reading ‘NASA Commercial Crew: Better Flying Through Software’

Sierra Nevada Protests Commercial Crew Awards

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Dream Chaser (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Dream Chaser (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Sierra Nevada has formally protested NASA’s decision to award commercial crew contracts to Boeing and SpaceX:

Details of the objection lodged with the Government Accountability Office will be released shortly, Krystal Scordo, a Sierra Nevada spokeswoman, said today by e-mail. The GAO has 100 days to make a decision in the case.

The move erects at least a temporary roadblock for Boeing and SpaceX, which were picked by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA’s funding for so-called space taxi flights marks the first time the U.S. has turned to commercial ventures for sending humans into orbit.

Read the full story.

UPDATE: Here’s the Sierra Nevada press release:

Sierra Nevada Corporation Challenges Award of NASA’s
Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract

SPARKS, Nev. (Sept. 26, 2014) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced today that it has filed a legal challenge to the award of contracts to Boeing and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program.  The CCtCap program will restore U.S. transportation capability to the International Space Station.

Continue reading ‘Sierra Nevada Protests Commercial Crew Awards’

Sierra Nevada Weighs Formal Protest on Commercial Crew Awards

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Dream Chaser (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Dream Chaser (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Mark Sirangelo said the company is weighing a formal protest of NASA’s rejection of the company’s commercial crew bid as it continues work on the Dream Chaser shuttle.

The company has built an international network of partners and potential customers, including the European Space Agency (ESA), German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Mark Sirangelo, who heads the company’s Space Systems unit in Louisville, Colorado, said Sept. 25 that Sierra Nevada will bid on the second-round NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-2) contract to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.

He also said the company may file a formal protest of NASA’s decision to reject its commercial crew bid with the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The deadline for a bid protest, which could lead to a reconsideration of the contract awards, is Sept. 26, and Sirangelo suggested Sierra Nevada may have financial and technical grounds for the action. A final corporate decision, in consultation with the company’s lawyers, was planned following a meeting Sept. 25.

Read the full story.

Sierra Nevada Lays Off Dream Chaser Employees

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Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

In the wake of losing NASA’s Commercial Crew Program competition, Sierra Nevada laid off about 90 employees who had been working on the Dream Chaser space shuttle, the Denver Post reports.

Space Systems chief Mark Sirangelo said many of those let go had been hired in anticipation of the NASA contract.

“We did do a workforce reduction, but it was a relatively minor one compared to what it might have been,” he said.

The layoffs represent a 9.4 percent reduction in Space Systems’ Colorado workforce, he said.

Continue reading ‘Sierra Nevada Lays Off Dream Chaser Employees’