WASHINGTON — Blue Origin filed a protest with the Authorities Accountability Workplace April 26 over NASA’s determination to pick solely SpaceX for its Human Touchdown System (HLS) program, arguing the company “moved the goalposts” of the competitors.
The corporate, in a prolonged submitting with the GAO, claimed that along with not giving corporations the chance to vary their proposals to mirror the company’s diminished finances for HLS, NASA improperly evaluated features of its proposal in addition to the one by SpaceX, the corporate that gained the $2.89 billion contract April 16 to develop a crewed lunar lander and carry out an indication mission.
“NASA has executed a flawed acquisition for the Human Touchdown System program and moved the goalposts on the final minute,” the corporate stated in an announcement supplied to SpaceNews about its protest. “In NASA’s personal phrases, it has made a ‘excessive threat’ choice.”
Blue Origin says within the GAO protest that its “Nationwide Staff,” which included Draper, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, bid $5.99 billion for the HLS award, barely greater than double SpaceX’s bid. Nonetheless, it argues that it was not given the chance to revise that bid when NASA concluded that the funding out there wouldn’t enable it to pick two bidders, as initially anticipated. NASA requested $3.Three billion for HLS in its fiscal yr 2021 finances proposal however obtained solely $850 million in an omnibus appropriations invoice handed in December 2020.
“NASA’s supply choice rationale improperly justifies the choice of a lone supplier on account of ‘anticipated future funding for the HLS Program,’” Blue Origin’s protest states. It notes that the mixture of its bid and SpaceX’s bid, about $9 billion, is just like what NASA spent on the industrial crew program, the place NASA “made two awards with much less out there funding and fewer out-year funding certainty.”
“Blue Origin was plainly prejudiced by the Company’s failure to speak this variation in necessities,” it states, by not giving the corporate a possibility to revise its proposal. “Blue Origin might have and would have taken a number of actions to revise its proposed method, scale back its value to extra intently align with funding out there to the Company, and/or suggest schedule options” if given the chance by NASA.
Brent Sherwood, senior vp of superior improvement applications at Blue Origin, stated in an affidavit included within the protest that the corporate obtained no suggestions from the corporate’s proposal till NASA notified it April 16 that the company had not chosen it for an award.
“If NASA had notified Blue Origin that the Supply Choice Official’s evaluation of accessible out-year finances would preclude an award absent a repriced Blue Origin proposal, Blue Origin would have welcomed the chance to supply particular changes in a revised proposal,” he wrote, equivalent to having the corporate pay a larger share of the general improvement value.
Blue Origin additionally criticized NASA’s evaluation of Blue Origin’s proposal on a number of technical and managerial grounds. That features a declare within the supply choice assertion that the proposal included superior funds not allowed within the proposal and thus grounds for ruling the proposal ineligible for an award, and one other that raised questions concerning the communications system for the lander.
The corporate additionally argued that NASA “unreasonably favored” SpaceX’s Starship lander in its analysis. SpaceX, it argued, must develop a totally reusable heavy-lift launch car quickly and use “never-before-tested on-orbit refueling” to achieve success. “In distinction, Blue Origin’s proposal is suitable with present launch autos, makes use of solely Three launches, and employs heritage methods which were flight examined,” it argued.
“The Company unreasonably favored SpaceX’s analysis by minimizing vital dangers in SpaceX’s design and schedule, whereas maximizing the identical or comparable dangers in Blue Origin’s proposal,” it concluded. “Such an analysis is unreasonable and prejudiced Blue Origin.”
Blue Origin argued that, by choosing SpaceX, NASA is jeopardizing the broader industrial house business. “This single award endangers home provide chains for house and negatively impacts jobs throughout the nation, by inserting NASA house exploration within the palms of 1 vertically built-in enterprise that manufactures just about all its personal elements and obviates a broad-based nationwide provider community,” it acknowledged. “Starship is incompatible with different U.S. industrial launch autos, additional limiting NASA’s options and entrenching SpaceX’s monopolistic management of NASA deep house exploration.”
“Their determination eliminates alternatives for competitors, considerably narrows the provision base, and never solely delays, but in addition endangers America’s return to the moon. Due to that, we’ve filed a protest with the GAO,” Blue Origin stated in its assertion to SpaceNews about its determination to protest the HLS award.
Protests of main NASA contracts aren’t unusual. In 2014, Sierra Nevada Company protested NASA’s choice of Boeing and SpaceX for industrial crew improvement awards. The GAO, although, rejected that protest in January 2015.
Blue Origin is not any stranger to GAO protests both. It filed a “pre-award” protest of the Nationwide Safety Area Launch Section 2 procurement in 2019, arguing that the phrases of request for proposals didn’t enable a full and open competitors. The GAO sustained one side of that protest, relating to taking a look at the most effective worth of proposals “when mixed,” however rejected different features of it. Blue Origin finally didn’t win a launch contract, however didn’t file a GAO protest.
In a December 2020 report, the GAO stated it sustained 15% of protests it resolved in fiscal yr 2020, in comparison with 13% in fiscal yr 2019. The principle causes for sustaining protests had been unreasonable technical evaluations, flaws within the solicitation, and unreasonable evaluations of value or previous efficiency.