NASA Resumes Work on Private Space Taxi Contracts

NASA commercial crew program
NASA's Commercial Crew Program had launched to help get American astronauts flying from the U.S. to the International Space Station by 2017. (Image credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON — NASA announced Oct. 9 that it has lifted an order that halted work on commercial crew contracts awarded last month to Boeing and SpaceX, saying that delaying work during an ongoing contract protest could jeopardize the operation of the international space station.

In a statement posted to the NASA Commercial Crew Program website, the agency said it was using “statutory authority available to it” to proceed with the $6.8 billion worth of Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts it awarded Sept. 16 to Boeing and SpaceX.

“The agency recognizes that failure to provide the CCtCap transportation service as soon as possible poses risks to the ISS crew, jeopardizes continued operation of the ISS, would delay meeting critical crew size requirements, and may result in the U.S. failing to perform the commitments it made in its international agreements,” NASA stated as its reasons for resuming work on the contracts.

“These considerations compelled NASA to use its statutory authority to avoid significant adverse consequences where contract performance remained suspended,” the agency stated.

On Sept. 26, Sierra Nevada Corp., the third major company in the CCtCap competition, filed a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office, arguing in a statement that there were “serious questions and inconsistencies in the source selection process.”

Shortly after Sierra Nevada filed the protest, NASA instructed Boeing and SpaceX to stop work on its CCtCap contracts, agency spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz said Oct. 2. Citing the ongoing protest, she said NASA couldn’t reveal when it issued the stop-work order and how much work, if any, the two companies had performed prior to the order.

The GAO has until Jan. 5, 2015, to rule on Sierra Nevada’s CCtCap protest.

This story was provided by SpaceNews, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

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Jeff Foust
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer

Jeff Foust is a Senior Staff Writer at SpaceNews, a space industry news magazine and website, where he writes about space policy, commercial spaceflight and other aerospace industry topics. Jeff has a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned a bachelor's degree in geophysics and planetary science from the California Institute of Technology. You can see Jeff's latest projects by following him on Twitter.