Artemis: July 2021 Archives

GAO Statement on Blue Origin-Dynetics Decision - Protests Denied

"On Friday, July 30, 2021, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied protests filed by Blue Origin Federation, LLC, of South Kent, Washington, and Dynetics, Inc.-A Leidos Company, of Huntsville, Alabama. The protesters challenged their non-selection for awards and the award of optional contract line item numbers to Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), of Hawthorne, California, under Option A to Appendix H of Broad Agency Announcement (the announcement) No. NNH19ZCQ001K. Broad Agency Announcements typically provide for the acquisition of basic and applied research for new and creative research or development solutions to scientific and engineering problems. The rules for these procurements are not the same as those for standard competitive federal procurements, as agencies generally enjoy broader discretion in selecting the proposals most suitable to meeting their research and development needs when utilizing broad agency announcement procedures. The announcement was issued by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), for a demonstration mission for a human landing system for lunar exploration."

In denying the protests, GAO first concluded that NASA did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award. NASA's announcement provided that the number of awards the agency would make was subject to the amount of funding available for the program. In addition, the announcement reserved the right to make multiple awards, a single award, or no award at all. In reaching its award decision, NASA concluded that it only had sufficient funding for one contract award. GAO further concluded there was no requirement for NASA to engage in discussions, amend, or cancel the announcement as a result of the amount of funding available for the program. As a result, GAO denied the protest arguments that NASA acted improperly in making a single award to SpaceX.

Letter From Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos To NASA Administrator Bill Nelson: Human Landing System

"In April (prior to your confirmation as NASA administrator), only one HLS bidder, SpaceX, was offered the opportunity to revise their price and funding profile, leading to their selection. Blue Origin was not offered the same opportunity. That was a mistake, it was unusual, and it was a missed opportunity. But it is not too late to remedy. We stand ready to help NASA moderate its technical risks and solve its budgetary constraints and put the Artemis Program back on a more competitive, credible, and sustainable path. Our Appendix H HLS contract is still open and can be amended.

With that in mind and on behalf of the National Team, we formally offer the following for your consideration:

• Blue Origin will bridge the HLS budgetary funding shortfall by waiving all payments in the current and next two government fiscal years up to $2B to get the program back on track right now. This offer is not a deferral, but is an outright and permanent waiver of those payments. This offer provides time for government appropriation actions to catch up.

• Blue Origin will, at its own cost, contribute the development and launch of a pathfinder mission to low-Earth orbit of the lunar descent element to further retire development and schedule risks. This pathfinder mission is offered in addition to the baseline plan of performing a precursor uncrewed landing mission prior to risking any astronauts to the Moon. This contribution to the program is above and beyond the over $1B of corporate contribution cited in our Option A proposal that funds items such as our privately developed BE-7 lunar lander engine and indefinite storage of liquid hydrogen in space. All of these contributions are in addition to the $2B waiver of payments referenced above.

• Finally, Blue Origin will accept a firm, fixed-priced contract for this work, cover any system development cost overruns, and shield NASA from partner cost escalation concerns."

Keith's note: You have to wonder who advises Jeff Bezos on his outreach, PR, and overall tone setting. More than half of the stories that have circulated (or continue to circulate) about his flight last week are not positive. Indeed some are overtly negative. So, instead of sending a private letter to Bill Nelson to make this offer, he releases this thing with the clear intent of trying to use public pressure and money (as an afterthought) to Big Foot the matter and reverse the HLS decision. Bad press about space billionaires having their way in space now mixes with space billionaires trying to change NASA decisions that they do not like. No one benefits from this.

GAO is not deterred by external pressure and they will make their decision known - possibly as early as next week. Nelson is going to have a hard time arguing with the GAO's protest ruling if they side with NASA's earlier decision - especially since the basic factor that guided the sole source decision i.e. not enough money for more than one contractor - is still in force. NASA decided to make one HLS award since they could not make a decision to spend money that they simply do not have. NASA still has no idea where they are going to get all the money to keep the program of record on track for a 2024 lunar landing - or any other landing.

Members of Congress from the affected states will pressure NASA to consider this offer. Bill Nelson did not really hide his displeasure at the down select to one vendor so he may not put up much of a fight. The GAO analysis was made without this offer from Blue Origin. Blue Origin only focuses on their side of the equation and does not take into account the things NASA will have to do to adopt their proposal. And if they accept Blue Origin's proposal then why shouldn't they just give Dynetics a second shot or, for that matter SpaceX and the other bidders and just re-do the whole procurement. Heck, Elon could throw a billion Bitcoin in ;-) If this after-the-fact proposal is now considered, then the net result will certainly be yet another delay in the process of developing a Human Landing System for Artemis. It also sends a message to big aerospace that you can reverse NASA decisions - if you offer enough money.

Besides, SpaceX may well decide to just go to the Moon anyway on their own dime.


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This page is an archive of entries in the Artemis category from July 2021.

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