Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser spaceplane. Image Credit: NASA

Sierra Nevada Corporation Protests NASA Commercial Crew Award

Update: According to a statement released on NASA’s website, “Pursuant to the GAO protest, NASA instructed Boeing and SpaceX to suspend performance of the contracts. ”

The Sierra Nevada Corporation has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office against NASA over contract the company was vying for that the agency awarded to Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

The complaint was lodged on Sept. 26, just days after the Sierra Nevada Corporation laid off around 100 employees working on its Dream Chaser spaceplane, a spacecraft the company was developing to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS. According to the Sierra Nevada Corporation this is the first time the company has ever filed a legal challenge to a government contract award.

According to a press release issued by the Sierra Nevada Corporation, “While all three competitors were found to be compliant and awardable under the criteria set forth in the request for proposal (RFP), only two proposals were selected (Boeing and SpaceX), one of which would result in a substantial increased cost to the public despite near equivalent technical and past performance scores.”

Boeing was given $4.2 billion for its CST-100 capsule, while SpaceX received $2.6 billion for its Dragon spacecraft as a part of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts awarded by NASA. The Sierra Nevada Corporation argues that it offered a significant cost savings over companies that were choosen, pointing out that it offered the second least expensive proposal in the competition.

“The company believes that, in this time of critical budget limits, it is more important than ever to deliver the best value to the American public,” the Sierra Nevada Corporation said in a statement. “With the current awards, the U.S. government would spend up to $900 million more at the publicly announced contracted level for a space program equivalent to the program that SNC proposed. Given those facts, we believe that a thorough review must be conducted of the award decision.”

NASA has 30 days to respond to the protest and the Government Accountability Office is required to issue a ruling within 100 days of the complaint being filed.