GAO report details rejection of HLS protests

WASHINGTON — The Authorities Accountability Workplace provided extra particulars about its choice to reject protests filed by two firms of NASA’s Human Touchdown System (HLS) award to SpaceX.

The GAO launched Aug. 10 a 76-page choice denying protests filed in April by Blue Origin and Dynetics of NASA’s choice to make a single HLS award, valued at $2.9 billion, to SpaceX. The GAO introduced its choice July 30 however withheld the formal choice memo till a model appropriate for public launch, with redactions, was out there.

The GAO rejected claims by the protesting firms that NASA erred by making a single award when it mentioned its want to make a number of awards. The “plain phrases” of the solicitation, the GAO concluded, “unequivocally put the protesters on discover that NASA might make a number of awards, a single award, or no award in any respect.”

The GAO choice offers new particulars in regards to the monetary constraints NASA confronted when assessing the HLS proposals. NASA obtained $850 million from Congress in fiscal 12 months 2021 for the HLS program and recognized a further $96 million from different applications that might go to HLS. Nevertheless, $389 million of that funding was already dedicated to the “base interval” awards NASA made to Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX in 2020, and $202 million reserved for inner and different prices for this system. That left $355 million out there for the brand new HLS awards.

All three firms requested preliminary milestone funds greater than that quantity, though the precise numbers are redacted within the public GAO doc. NASA requested SpaceX, the bottom bidder, revise its fee construction to deal with that. The doc doesn’t disclose the brand new worth of that preliminary milestone fee, though authorities contracting data present NASA paid SpaceX $300 million on July 30, the day the GAO rejected the protests.

Blue Origin and Dynetics, the GAO concluded, “didn’t submit proposals priced in a way that NASA might make a number of awards with the out there funding for the HLS program.” Whereas the questions in regards to the significance of a number of rivals, the GAO added in its choice, “might advantage additional public debate, they don’t set up that NASA has violated any relevant procurement regulation or regulation.”

The GAO additionally rejected claims by Blue Origin and Dynetics that their proposals have been unfairly evaluated compared with SpaceX’s proposal. These vary from Blue Origin’s criticism of how its lander’s communications system was assessed to the mass of Dynetics’s lander that “far exceeds” its allocation.

The GAO dismissed these claims, concluding that “the file adequately helps NASA’s analysis of the protesters’ proposals and was in step with relevant procurement regulation, regulation, and the phrases” of the solicitation.

Nevertheless, the GAO did agree with one declare that the protestors made about how NASA evaluated SpaceX’s proposal. SpaceX’s idea of operations for its Starship lunar lander requires 16 launches: one of many lander itself, 14 “tanker” Starships to gasoline it and one other whose objective is redacted. The protestors argued that NASA erred in not requiring a flight readiness evaluate (FRR) for every launch.

The GAO agreed that, beneath the phrases of the solicitation, an FRR is required earlier than every launch, slightly than one for all the sequence of launches. NASA requested SpaceX amend its proposal to incorporate two further FRRs, however the GAO stated that also fell in need of the necessities within the solicitation.

Nevertheless, the GAO additionally concluded that this oversight didn’t have a cloth impression on the competitors, stating within the doc that “the file displays that NASA’s analysis was largely affordable, and the relative aggressive standing of the offerors beneath the non-price components wouldn’t materially change.”

Dynetics didn’t touch upon the GAO report, and in a July 30 assertion stated that “whereas disillusioned, we respect the GAO’s dedication.” Blue Origin, although, provided no concessions even after the discharge of the report.

“The GAO report confirms NASA’s want for a number of awards and confirms that there have been important points with how NASA performed this procurement course of,” the corporate stated in an Aug. 11 assertion. “We stand by our evaluation that SpaceX obtained preferential therapy by conducting unique negotiations with them.”

The corporate stated it urged NASA to pick out a second supplier, one thing company officers stated they assist however lack the funding to take action at present. “Two suppliers guarantee better security and mission success, promote competitors, and management prices.”

SpaceX didn’t touch upon the report past tweets from firm founder and chief government Elon Musk addressing one side of the report concerning the necessity for 16 launches to assist a single Starship lunar lander mission. “16 flights is extraordinarily unlikely,” he stated, estimating a “max of 8” flights to fill the tanks given the projected payload capability of Starship, and presumably as few as 4.

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