Sierra Nevada Protest Halts NASA's Human Spaceflight Program With Boeing, SpaceX
The work going into NASA's commercial crew program has been halted due to an official challenge lodged by a commercial space agency that missed out on the selection process. NASA's announcement that American spacecraft would once again take American astronauts into space was lauded by just about everyone in the country last month. But as it so happens, Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) one of SpaceX and Boeing's biggest competitors, were none too happy about the move. NASA had selected Boeing and SpaceX as the official partners for their commercial crew program, which will see SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft and Boeing's CST-100 capsule ferrying US astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
News that NASA had requested SpaceX and Boeing to halt work on the project broke late last week after SNC issued an official release stating their intent to challenge NASA's decision. Many commentators are simply calling this an act of sore losers, but SNC insist that is not the case.
"In its 51 year history SNC has never filed a legal challenge to a government contract award," said the SNC statement. However, in the case of the CCtCap award, NASA's own Source Selection Statement and debrief indicate that there are serious questions and inconsistencies in the source selection process. SNC, therefore, feels that there is no alternative but to institute a legal challenge."
SNC believes that the SpaceX and Boeing proposals represented a significantly higher cost to the US tax payer and it is for that and other reasons they feel their Dreamchaser proposal should have been selected. As such, they are demanding a further review of the selection process before work continues on the project.
As of yet, NASA administrator Charles Bolden has declined to comment on proceedings, but either way this is looking like causing a lengthy delay to the project. With the official complaint registered with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), NASA has up to 30 days in which to decide if they want to defend their position, after which SNC will be granted a further 10 days to respond. Add to this the 60 days it could take the GAO to make a ruling and there's a very real chance work won't restart on the project until 2015.