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GAO Releases Document Explaining Rejection of Sierra Nevada Protest

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a redacted version of its decision rejecting Sierra Nevada’s protest of NASA’s award of commercial crew contracts to Boeing and SpaceX.

“In sum, our review of Sierra Nevada’s challenges and the underlying evaluation record in this case provides no basis on which our Office would sustain the protest,” the document concludes. “In our view, the SEB [source evaluation board] reports and SSD [source selection decision] demonstrate an evaluation of schedule and the agency’s 2017 goal consistent with the plain terms of the RFP [request for proposal].

“The agency’s evaluation of the realism of SpaceX’s low price, and its available financial resources, was similarly consistent with the terms of the RFP. Finally, our review of the record shows that the agency’s evaluation under the mission suitability and past performance evaluation factors was reasonable, and did not reflect unequal treatment of the proposals,” the document reads.

The decision also includes the following synopsis of the specific protests that were denied:

  1. Protest that the agency improperly elevated the importance of a solicitation goal to a de facto requirement is denied where the evaluation was consistent with the stated criteria.
  2. Protest challenging the agency’s determination that the awardee’s fixed price was realistic is denied where the agency reasonably considered various factors supporting the awardee’s low price.
  3. Protest of the agency’s technical evaluation is denied where the evaluation was reasonable, consistent with the stated criteria, and not unequal.
  4. Protest of the agency’s past performance evaluation is denied where the agency conducted a reasonable evaluation of the offeror’s past performance references, and gave effect to all elements of the evaluation set forth in the RFP.

You can read the full report here.

Year in Review: A Look at Virgin Galactic Developments in 2014

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WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Continuing our look back at 2014, we review progress at Virgin Galactic. While the loss of SpaceShipTwo on Oct. 31 understandably dominated the headlines, there were a number of other newsworthy developments at the company last year.

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NASA Releases Commercial Crew Source Selection Statement

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NASA has released the selection statement explaining its decision to award Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts to Boeing and SpaceX.

The 29-page document, dated Sept. 15, 2014, details how NASA ranked proposals by Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation. It was signed by William Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations.

Release of the statement was delayed by Sierra Nevada’s protest of the awards. The Government Accountability Office rejected the protest earlier this month.

You can download the statement here.

Triumph & Tragedy: The Year in Commercial Space 2014 (Part I)

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Part of SpaceShipTwo's fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Part of SpaceShipTwo’s fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

The year 2014 was one of steady progress and major setbacks in commercial space. Here is a rundown of some of the major developments and trends of the year. A later will look more closely at some of the companies in the industry.

A Crash in the Desert. The tragic loss of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and death of Scaled Composites test pilot Mike Alsbury on Oct. 31 sent shock waves through the space community. The ship was ripped apart over the Mojave Desert about 13 seconds into a powered flight test when its twin tail booms suddenly deployed. Pilot Pete Siebold was thrown free of the wreckage and landed under parachute, battered and bruised but alive.

Continue reading ‘Triumph & Tragedy: The Year in Commercial Space 2014 (Part I)’

Sierra Nevada Statement on GAO Rejection of Commercial Crew Appeal

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Dream Chaser (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Dream Chaser (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev. (Jan. 5, 2015) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) was advised today that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has denied the company’s protest challenging the outcome of NASA’s  Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract award. At this stage, SNC is evaluating the GAO decision. While the outcome was not what SNC expected, we maintain our belief that the Dream Chaser® spacecraft is technically very capable, reliable and was qualified to win based on NASA’s high ratings of the space system. We appreciate the time and effort contributed to this process by the GAO and NASA to fully evaluate such a critical decision for the United States.

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NASA Praises GAO Commercial Crew Decision

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NASA issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) decision to deny a protest Sierra Nevada Corp., of Louisville, Colorado, filed Sept. 26, 2014, challenging the agency’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) Contract awards made Sept. 16, 2014, to The Boeing Company, Space Exploration, Houston, and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), of Hawthorne, California.

“The GAO has notified NASA that it has denied Sierra Nevada Corporation’s protest of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract awards. NASA is pleased the GAO’s decision allows the agency to move forward and continue working with Boeing and SpaceX on the Launch America initiative that will enable safe and reliable crew transportation to and from the International Space Station on American spacecraft launched from the United States, ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia for such transportation. The case remains under the protective order and blackout until the GAO releases its decision.”

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GAO Denies Sierra Nevada Protest of NASA Commercial Crew Award

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Dream Chaser landing at Ellington Field. (Cedit: SNC)

Dream Chaser landing at Ellington Field. (Cedit: SNC)

Statement on Sierra Nevada Bid Protest Decision

The following is a statement from Ralph O. White, Managing Associate General Counsel for Procurement Law at GAO, regarding today’s decision resolving a protest filed by Sierra Nevada Corp., B-410485, et al., January 5, 2015.

On January 5, 2015, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest filed by Sierra Nevada Corp., of Louisville, Colorado, challenging the award of contracts to The Boeing Co., Space Exploration, of Houston, Texas, and to Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), of Hawthorne, California, by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract (CCtCap).  Sierra Nevada argued, among other things, that NASA’s evaluation departed from the solicitation’s stated evaluation and selection criteria by significantly elevating NASA’s stated “goal” of obtaining an integrated crew transportation system no later than the end of 2017, and by failing to put offerors on notice that the agency’s goal would be central to the evaluation and selection decision.

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Sierra Nevada Appeal Decision, SpaceX Barge Landing Attempt Loom

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Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

With the new year comes some major developments in commercial space:

Monday, Jan. 5:  The Government Accountability Office is scheduled to rule on an appeal by Sierra Nevada Corporation’s protest of NASA’s decision to award Commercial Crew Program contracts to Boeing and SpaceX.

The decision left SNC and its Dream Chaser shuttle out in the cold for delivering crew to the International Space Station. SNC claims its bid was significantly lower than the one submitted by Boeing, and that NASA’s decision-making process was marred by irregularities.

Landing legs deployed just before soft water landing in the Atlantic Ocean. (Credit: SpaceX)

Landing legs deployed just before soft water landing in the Atlantic Ocean. (Credit: SpaceX)

Tuesday, Jan. 6: SpaceX will attempt to land a Falcon 9 first stage on a barge. The rocket will be launching a Dragon freighter to the International Space Station. The launch is set for 6:20:29 a.m. EST. NASA Television coverage will begin at 5 a.m. EST.

Sierra Nevada Alleges Boeing Benefitted From Commercial Crew Criteria Changes

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Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Andy Pasztor of The Wall Street Journal has an update on Sierra Nevada Corporation’s appeal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program award to Boeing. The Government Accountability Office is set to decide on the appeal by the first week in January.

In recent weeks, details have emerged that some of the arguments at the heart of the proceeding revolve around Sierra Nevada’s claims that a high-ranking agency official opted to rank Boeing’s proposal higher than a previous panel of agency procurement experts.

According to people familiar with the details, Sierra Nevada has alleged that Boeing won unfairly, because the choice was partly based on agency projections that the Chicago-based aerospace giant was more likely than its rival to complete the work on time. Sierra Nevada’s filings, however, contend that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s formal bidding criteria put a premium on price combined with technical issues, without indicating that scheduling considerations would be major factors in ranking rival proposals, one of these people said.

Sierra Nevada’s bid was about $900 million lower than the one Boeing submitted, but NASA’s final decision memo noted that Sierra Nevada’s plans entailed “considerably more schedule risk.”

Sierra Nevada has challenged Boeing’s award on various grounds. One of the main assertions, according to one person familiar with the details, is that William Gerstenmaier, the agency’s top human exploration official and the one who made the final decision, overstepped his authority by unilaterally changing the scoring criteria.

Read the full story.

Commercial Crew Partners Completed 23 Milestones in 2014

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WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and the agency’s industry partners completed 23 agreement and contract milestones in 2014 and participated in thousands of hours of technical review sessions. The sessions focused on creating a new generation of safe, reliable and cost-effective crew space transportation systems to low-Earth orbit destinations.

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