. 24/7 Space News .
Protests over SpaceX contract put timetable for lunar return in limbo
by Paul Brinkmann
Washington DC (UPI) May 7, 2021

Two space companies that are protesting NASA's $2.9 billion lunar contract award to SpaceX allege the deal would make future moon landings more risky, while the claims leave the timetable for a crewed mission in limbo.

The companies that are protesting the award, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and space tech firm Dynetics, have filed formal complaints with the Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog agency.

Those protests must be resolved in 100 days, or by Aug. 4, according to federal regulations.

Both companies allege NASA held an improper meeting with Elon Musk's SpaceX, and that the space agency failed to fairly evaluate risks posed by SpaceX's Starship rocket.

At stake is nothing less than the timetable for NASA's Artemis program, which aims to put the first woman on the moon by 2024, even though the agency acknowledges that date isn't likely anymore due to a lack of congressional funding.

Remedy sought

"If the GAO sustains a protest and agrees with the protester, it should recommend some kind of way to remedy the problem identified," Ralph White, managing associate general counsel for procurement law at the agency, told UPI.

"I use the word recommend on purpose because only [Congress or the president] can direct an agency to do anything," White said.

If an agency defies a recommendation from the GAO, it will refer the matter to congressional committees that oversee the agency's budget, he said.

Panels that have jurisdiction over NASA's budget are the House and Senate appropriations committees and the House and Senate budget committees.

Blue Origin, based in Kent, Wash., and Dynetics, based in Huntsville, Ala., were finalists in NASA's competition to propose lunar landers. But NASA ranked both companies lower than SpaceX on the merits of their proposals, and SpaceX's bid was billions of dollars lower than the two competitors, according to NASA.

In its protest, Blue Origin accused NASA of downplaying significant risks and unknowns about SpaceX's Starship. Musk's company has flown Starship prototypes five times, and the spacecraft exploded in a fireball after four of those flights.

No ascent module

Although SpaceX hasn't provided detailed plans for Starship lunar landings, the company intends to land without a separate ascent module like the Apollo landers utilized.

According to Blue Origin, such a landing would risk damage to the main engines on Starship if they hit a boulder or other debris coming down. By comparison, Blue Origin's lander would have a separate ascent module.

"In NASA's own words, it has made a 'high risk' selection," Blue Origin said in its protest. "Their decision eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base, and not only delays, but also endangers, America's return to the moon."

Both companies have complained in their protests that NASA changed the nature of the lunar lander competition this year due the lack of congressional funding. The two claimed that NASA met only with SpaceX, on April 2, to inform Musk's company about the change.

"SpaceX was offered the opportunity to reprice its offer based on new budget information that NASA provided only to SpaceX. Unfortunately, Blue Origin was not given a similar opportunity," according to Blue Origin's protest.

Dynetics' protest also alleges that NASA unfairly cut it out of final discussions about the impact of congressional funding and possible changes to the company's bid.

NASA, however, claims it only met with SpaceX for final price negotiations after deciding SpaceX was the leading bidder, according to the official document explaining its decision as written by Kathy Lueders, NASA's associate administrator for human spaceflight.

The GAO has no power to void NASA's decision, but it can uphold the protests and recommend a way for NASA to correct any possible errors in the bid selection, said Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog organization based in Washington, D.C.

"I'd be very disappointed if the agency really did have some ex parte discussion, you know, with only one of the bidders," Amey said in an interview.

Could reopen competition

"If that's the case, it may be in the interest of NASA to reopen the competition, and put all three competitors on a level playing field, even if only for the sake of appearances."

SpaceX didn't respond to questions about the protests.

Dynetics also takes aim at SpaceX's use of a completely new propulsion system for Starship's new Raptor engines and SpaceX's plans to use an elevator to lower astronauts to the lunar surface from a door high above on Starship.

In contrast, Dynetics' lander would have a door much closer to the ground and a ladder similar to that used on Apollo landers.

"No elevator design has ever been successfully used in actual lunar conditions," Dynetics said in its protest.

Related Links
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

ISS astronauts splash down off Florida on SpaceX craft
Washington (AFP) May 2, 2021
A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying four astronauts back to Earth splashed down off Panama City early Sunday, a NASA livestream showed. Boats were retrieving the spacecraft and crew after their six-month mission aboard the International Space Station. The crew reported they were feeling well, NASA said. The capsule splashed down at 2:56 am (0656 GMT) in the dark in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast after a six-and-a-half hour flight from the ISS, images relayed by NASA's WB-57 high- ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Boeing's troubled Starliner capsule now aiming for July launch

Space aged: wine matured aboard ISS expected to sell for $1mn

Blue Origin will fly first crew to space in July

US Aerospace Company Blue Origin to Begin Selling Tickets for Tourist Trips in Space

Touchdown! SpaceX successfully lands Starship rocket

SpaceX to launch lunar mission paid with cryptocurrency Dogecoin

Protests over SpaceX contract put timetable for lunar return in limbo

NASA announces launch plans for new Dream Chaser spaceplane

NASA's Ingenuity Helicopter to begin new demonstration phase

Perseverance rover captures sound of Ingenuity flying on Mars

Volcanoes on Mars could be active, raise possibility of recent habitable conditions

Why Ingenuity's fifth flight will be different

China wants to send spacecraft to edge of solar system to mark 100th year of PRC

China's space station takes shared future concept to space

China launches space station core module Tianhe

Core capsule launched into orbit

Egos clash in Bezos and Musk space race

SpaceX launches 60 Starlink satellites from Florida

Spacecraft magnetic valve used to fill drinks

Lithuania to become ESA Associate Member state

Large Chinese rocket segment disintegrates over Indian Ocean

3D printing could be used in search for black holes

US watching Chinese rocket's erratic re-entry: Pentagon

ESA to build second deep space dish in Australia

UBCO researcher uses geology to help astronomers find habitable planets

Hubble Watches How a Giant Planet Grows

Coldplay beam new song into space in chat with French astronaut

Astronomers detect first ever hydroxyl molecule signature in an exoplanet atmosphere

Juice arrives at ESA's technical heart

New Horizons reaches a rare space milestone

New research reveals secret to Jupiter's curious aurora activity

NASA's Europa Clipper builds hardware, moves toward assembly

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.