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PlanetSpace Files Protest With GAO Over NASA Contracts

Says Its Proposal Represented Better Value Than Other Contractors

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been compelled to suspend last month's contract awards to two companies for cargo missions to the International Space Station, after a third filed a complaint with the US Government Accountability Office.

CBC News reports the protest was submitted last week to the GAO by PlanetSpace, a consortium of Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and Alliant Techsystems, alleging its bid for the ISS missions was passed by -- despite having higher evaluative rankings than the other two contractors.

The protest stated, "[PlanetSpace] received a higher mission suitability score from NASA's source evaluation board and was lower in cost than one of the two proposals selected by NASA. Thus, the PlanetSpace proposal represented better value to the government."

Contractors submitted bids last year to provide a commercial-cargo transportation system capable of hauling 20 tons of cargo to the ISS over an eight-year period, with flights to begin in 2010.

After evaluating the proposals, NASA awarded Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, with a $1.6 billion contract for 12 cargo flights, while Orbital Sciences Corporation received a $1.9 billion contract for eight cargo flights.

According to The Wall Street Journal, NASA senior official William Gerstenmaier indicated the decision was based on PlanetSpace's "complete lack of experience as a prime contractor," and expressed doubts about its ability to manage technical risks and deliver what it promised, calling its "likelihood of success remote."

NASA has suspended work on the contracts, and has 30 days to make a formal response to the GAO regarding PlanetSpace's complaint. A final ruling by the GAO is expected by April 29.

FMI: www.nasa.gov, www.planetspace.org, www.spacex.com, www.orbital.com

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