Dynetics HLS protest argues NASA should have revised competition after budget shortfall

Up to date 3:10 p.m. Jap with NASA assertion about stop-work order on HLS award to SpaceX.

WASHINGTON — NASA ought to have revised its strategy to the Human Touchdown System (HLS) program or withdrawn the solicitation completely as soon as it was clear the company didn’t have the funding to help two corporations, one of many shedding bidders argues in its protest of the award that has resulted in NASA suspending its work with the winner, SpaceX.

Dynetics, who filed a protest April 26 with the Authorities Accountability Workplace over NASA’s resolution to make a single HLS “Possibility A” award to SpaceX, argued NASA selected “essentially the most anti-competitive and excessive threat possibility out there” when it determined to proceed with a single award regardless of receiving solely about one fourth of the $3.3 billion it requested for this system in fiscal 12 months 2021.

“In gentle of this new funds constraint and schedule change, the HLS program as initially conceived and as set forth within the Solicitation is not executable,” Dynetics stated in its protest, a replica of which was obtained by table4. “Accordingly, NASA had a number of cheap (and lawful) alternate options to select from in reference to this acquisition.”

These alternate options, the corporate argued, included amending the solicitation or withdrawing it completely and beginning over “given its incompatibility with the extreme funds constraints” NASA confronted. The company might even have opened discussions with the bidders and permit them to revise their proposals, one thing NASA did solely with SpaceX.

One possibility, sources acquainted with the protest informed table4, was for NASA to make a number of awards for a specific contract line merchandise quantity, or CLIN, within the request for proposals for “sustaining necessities and preliminary design.” That will have allowed corporations to work on ideas for a lander for the later, extra sustainable part of the Artemis program.

“This complete mechanism was set as much as be very versatile, they usually didn’t actually use the pliability that they had,” a supply stated.

NASA’s resolution, Dynetics argues, successfully locks SpaceX in because the lunar lander supplier for the foreseeable future. “In making this resolution, NASA walked away from the bottom guidelines for the HLS program, successfully changing this Possibility A award right into a lowest-priced, technically acceptable (‘LPTA’) competitors and eschewing any future competitors for the HLS program,” the protest states. “Certainly, the anti-competitive impression and downstream impact of NASA’s modified acquisition technique can’t be overstated.”

NASA has stated it would pursue competitors in a later competitors for follow-on lunar lander providers. The company launched a request for data (RFI) April 28 asking corporations for suggestions on a future Lunar Exploration Transportation Companies (LETS) contract. That will enable corporations to promote to NASA “routine transportation providers” for astronauts within the Artemis program.

“We’re nonetheless just a few steps away from with the ability to problem the LETS contract request for proposals,” Lisa Watson-Morgan, NASA HLS program supervisor, stated in an announcement about LETS. “We’re persevering with our quest to refine acquisition methods to make sure government-industry partnerships are streamlined for corporations that wish to develop into suppliers — to the federal government and different shoppers — within the rising lunar market.”

Nevertheless, {industry} sources say they don’t perceive why NASA didn’t make the most of the pliability within the HLS solicitation to permit it to help different suppliers now by means of the sustainable lander possibility within the HLS solicitation. “There are knobs that NASA can flip to maintain competitors now,” a supply stated. “Placing out an RFI for one thing that’s a pair years from now, properly, there’s not going to be anyone left.”

“Two years from now, aside from billionaires who can select to maintain issues round, you’re not going to have others left within the recreation which can be going to provide you actual competitors,” the supply added.

The opposite facet of Dynetics’ protest was NASA’s analysis of its proposal. The corporate complained that NASA used “unspoken analysis standards” to downgrade its proposal. It cited as proof of that a number of attributes of its lander rated a “important power” by NASA when receiving its base interval HLS award a 12 months in the past that had been solely rated a “power” within the Possibility A contest, regardless of not altering.

“The Dynetics design was not altered, solely refined — what will need to have modified had been NASA’s technical and programmatic analysis standards,” the corporate acknowledged in its protest.

Most of the particular technical arguments it made are redacted within the model of the protest obtained by table4. The identical is true for its value, which NASA stated solely that it was “considerably greater” than Blue Origin’s bid of $5.99 billion. Sources acquainted with the protest famous that NASA did contemplate Dynetics’ value to be “truthful, cheap, and balanced,” because the company famous in its supply choice assertion.

Dynetics additionally claimed that NASA ignored weaknesses in SpaceX’s proposal. “NASA failed to think about the dangers inherent in SpaceX’s technical strategy and, extra particularly, data too shut at hand for NASA to disregard — i.e., that 4 SpaceX Starships have exploded at varied phases of their assessments flights in current months,” the protest states. “NASA has given SpaceX a cross on its demonstrable lack of such methods engineering.”

In its protest, Dynetics requested NASA “instantly implement an computerized keep of the awardee’s contract efficiency pending the decision of this protest.” NASA Performing Administrator Steve Jurczyk stated April 27 that it was nonetheless to be decided if NASA wanted to halt work on SpaceX’s contract due to the protests filed by each Blue Origin and Dynetics.

NASA spokesperson Monica Witt stated April 30 that due to the protests, “NASA instructed SpaceX that progress on the HLS contract has been suspended till GAO resolves all excellent litigation associated to this procurement.”

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