Sierra Nevada Protests NASA Space Taxi Choices
While Boeing and SpaceX were awarded National Aeronautics and Space Administration contracts earlier in the month, Sierra Nevada, the third option in the space agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability initiative, filed formal complaint Friday with the U.S. Government Accountability Office claiming "there are serious questions and inconsistencies in the source selection process."
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The private space company said its space vehicle, a winged space plane able to land on a runway after missions to space, would cost NASA US$900 million less to build and run compared to the traditional crew capsule entries Boeing and SpaceX submitted.
NASA's contract with SpaceX could be worth as much as US$2.6 billion, while the deal with Boeing could amount to US$2.6 billion, according to the Journal.
Sierra Nevada stated that NASA's selection papers and examination showed discrepancies in the selection procedure. The space agency has not yet disclosed the specific criteria on how the winning spacecraft were selected.
The paper also cited a NASA spokesperson that said it "wouldn't have any comment while the protest is pending" with the GAO.
Earlier, in the summer of 2012, NASA awarded the three private space companies US$1.1 billion to plan and manufacture vehicles that will carry astronauts into space by 2017.
NASA has relied on Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station since NASA retired its Space Shuttle fleet in 2011.
NASA gave Sierra Nevada US$212.5 million in 2012 to further refine the private company's Dream Chaser space plane, a reusable space-faring vehicle designed to carry a maximum of seven astronauts to low Earth orbit.
SpaceX, the first of the three space firms to organize a successful cargo run to the ISS, was awarded YS$440 million, while Boeing received US$460 million as part of the introduction to the CCiCap program.
Anonymous sources said Sierra Nevada "lagged behind the other two bidders in some technical rankings."