A former senior NASA official violated procurement regulations in his dealings with Boeing out of fear the company could delay the Trump Administration’s plan to land astronauts on the moon in 2024, The Washington Postreports.
The Post reports that NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration Doug Loverro reached out to Boeing Senior Vice President Jim Chilton in February to tell the company it would not win a study contract for the Human Landing System, a vehicle that will take astronauts to and from the lunar surface. The call came at a time when NASA was not to contact any of the bidders.
Loverro, who abruptly resigned in May, wanted to find out if Boeing planned to protest its loss. If so, NASA would need to issue stop work orders to the winning bidders until the Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled on the protest. GAO reviews usually take months.
Reuters reports that Boeing has submitted to an independent review of its compliance and ethics practices under an agreement with NASA and the U.S. Air Force in the wake of scandal relating to its bid to built the space agency’s crewed lunar lander.
The agreement, signed in August, comes as federal prosecutors continue a criminal investigation into whether NASA’s former human exploration chief, Doug Loverro, improperly guided Boeing space executive Jim Chilton during the contract bidding process.
By agreeing to the “Compliance Program Enhancements”, the aerospace heavyweight staves off harsher consequences from NASA and the Air Force – its space division’s top customers – such as being suspended or debarred from bidding on future space contracts.
The agreement calls for Boeing to pay a “third party expert” to assess its ethics and compliance programs and review training procedures for executives who liaise with government officials, citing “concerns related to procurement integrity” during NASA’s Human Landing System competition.
Loverro resigned his NASA post in May. Reuters reports that Boeing has fired a company attorney and a number of mid-level employees. The company has also revised its procurement procedures.
NASA rejected Boeing bid on the human lander for the Artemis program, which aims to land two astronauts at the south pole of the moon in 2024.
NASA awarded study contracts to Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX. The space agency plans to award a multi-billion contract to build the lander.
The Wall Street Journalreports that the U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into whether a former senior NASA official broke federal procurement law by updating a Boeing official on the status of the company’s bid to develop a human lunar lander.
The grand jury investigation involves communication between NASA’s former head of human spaceflight, Doug Loverro, and Boeing Senior Vice President Jim Chilton.
Loverro, who abruptly resigned from NASA in May, is alleged to have improperly told Chilton that Boeing was about to be eliminated from a competition for human landing system development contracts because the company’s bid was deficient
The chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics says she wants answers following the abrupt resignation of NASA’s head of human spaceflight, Douglas Loverro, on the eve of a crucial human flight test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.
“I am deeply concerned over this sudden resignation, especially eight days before the first scheduled launch of US astronauts on US soil in almost a decade. Under this Administration, we’ve seen a pattern of abrupt departures that have disrupted our efforts at human space flight,” tweeted Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.)
“The bottom line is that, as the Committee that oversees NASA, we need answers,” she added.
The following is NASA Associate Administrator Douglas Loverro’s resignation message to employees in the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate.
On December 2nd of last year, day 1856 in my pin count, it was my privilege to become your Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations. That was a time before we were in the final count for the first crewed flight from American soil in nearly a decade; before we brought on board three industry partners to propel our lunar dreams and ambitions; before we took on the task to reorganize ourselves for the future and the adventures that lay ahead; before COVID-19 and endless hours of telework that would test our spirit yet prove our mettle; and before we knew for sure that we could fulfill the promise we made to the nation to meet its 2024 goal. But now, a mere 168 days later, all those things are no longer in doubt.
The head of NASA’s human spaceflight program has resigned three days before a flight readiness review (FRR) for the first human spaceflight from U.S. soil in nearly nine years.
Douglas Loverro, associate administrator for the human exploration and operations (HEO), resigned on Monday — nine days before a Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley and aboard is scheduled to be launched by a Falcon 9 rocket on May 27.
Loverro, who took on the job in December, was to have presided over a two-day review set to begin this Thursday on whether to go ahead with the crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Loverro would have made the final go/no decision.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday, April 30, to announce the companies selected to develop modern human landing systems (HLS) that will carry the first woman and next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024 and develop sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade.
Editor’s Note: NASA Associate Administrator Douglas Loverro unveiled the following news on Monday during a members-only AIAA webinar in which media participation was apparently limited by that private organization. (As near as I can tell, I did not receive an invite.) The news was not officially announced until Wednesday.
This is a bad way to announce such a major change, especially considering the importance of the space station and problems NASA has experienced with CASIS and the ISS National Laboratory. The approach undermines the openness under which NASA has traditionally operated. I sincerely hope this type of event is not repeated.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is committed to effective management of the International Space Station as a resource for the American people through the International Space Station National Laboratory (ISSNL). The ISSNL returns benefits to Earth and to the nation by supporting important research and development, science, and education and outreach projects, and particularly by enabling research projects that can lead to new commercial space applications in support of the agency’s overall strategy to enable a robust low-Earth orbit economy.
With the clock ticking to meet a presidential mandate to land astronauts on the moon by 2024, NASA has decided that a key element of the transportation architecture, the lunar Gateway, can wait a bit.
Spacepolicyonline.com reports that Douglas Loverro, head of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, told the NASA Advisory Council last week that the human-tended space station was not on the critical path for the initial landing.
Loverro said today that the Artemis architecture that was being pursued prior to his arrival did not follow the maxim that if something is not necessary it is a distraction. He has concluded that the Gateway is not necessary to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, though it will be needed later for a sustainable lunar program.
“The Gateway itself is not mandatory to get to the Moon initially, so we are taking Gateway out of the critical path to go ahead and get to the Moon.”
The decision pushes construction the the lunar orbiting facility to 2025, or whatever year follows the actual landing. The Gateway’s purpose is to serve as a base for missions to the surface and for the study of the moon from orbit.
NASA is expects to award contracts for a human landing vehicle in the months ahead.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and Boeing will host a media teleconference at 11 a.m. EST Friday, March 6, to discuss the outcome of the joint independent review team investigation into the primary issues detected during the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Participants in the briefing will be:
Douglas Loverro, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate
Jim Chilton, senior vice president at Boeing Space and Launch
Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
John Mulholland, vice president and manager of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner Program
Audio of the teleconference will stream live online at:
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Wednesday named Douglas Loverro as the agency’s new associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. Loverro succeeds former astronaut Kenneth Bowersox, who has been acting associate administrator since July.
“I worked with Doug for many years on the Hill, and he is a respected strategic leader in both civilian and defense programs, overseeing the development and implementation of highly complicated systems,” said Bridenstine from NASA Headquarters in Washington. “He is known for his strong, bipartisan work and his experience with large programs will be of great benefit to NASA at this critical time in our final development of human spaceflight systems for both Commercial Crew and Artemis.”