Friday, 17 October 2014

AWST reveals selection criteria for CCtCap

The aerospace magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology (AWST) reports that an internal document by William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s Associate Administrator, sheds light to the selection criteria that NASA used to award to Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) contracts on Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap), in order to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) as of 2017. The main criteria were the maturity of concepts proposed and the degree of risk to schedule.

Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) had competed for contract awards, worth of 6,8 billion USD, to develop crew transportation vehicles to the ISS. Currently, the only means to transport crewmembers to the ISS is the Russian Soyuz vehicle, which costs NASA 76,3 million USD per astronaut roundtrip. This fact, combined with the recent US-Russian political tension on the Crimea annexation, has accelerated US efforts to develop autonomous crew transportation capability. Therefore, NASA runs a program called Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap), which funds the development of new vehicles. CCtCap is part of the wider Commercial Crew Transportation (CCT) program.

In September 2014, NASA awarded 4,2 billion USD to Boeing and 2,6 billion USD to SpaceX, thus excluding SNC from further funding. Details on the selection criteria and the reasons for the different amounts awarded were not released. AWST claims to possess an internal document drafted by NASA’s Associate Administrator, which offers some clarifications.

SNC’s proposal was deemed to be less technically mature than the proposals of the other competitors, hence creating greater risks for schedule overruns. Boeing was found to have the most reliable technical and management approach, combined with very good past performance. SpaceX’s proposal was the most cost attractive, while its management received also very favorable comments. As a result, SNC’s proposal was judged to be weaker in relation to Boeing’s technical reliability and SpaceX’s cost attractiveness.

SNC has filed a protest against NASA’s decision before the US Government Accountability Office claiming “inconsistencies in the selection process”.

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