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article imageProtest scuppers NASA's commercial spacecraft plans

By Kev Hedges     Oct 4, 2014 in Science
Ambitious plans from NASA to work on two new commercial spacecraft could be scuppered, or face a long delay, after an eliminated contender lodges a formal complaint and protested about the contract award process.
The protest is received from the Sierra Nevada Corporation in relation to the design and building of its Dreamchaser space plane. NASA chief Charles Bolden told of the protest at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) held in Toronto.
The protest means NASA can longer move forward with the program until the issue has been resolved. The space agency will have 30 days to respond to the matter and the U.S. government office for accountability will rule on the protest by the end of January 2015.
In September, NASA awarded a $4.2 billion contract to The Boeing Corporation and $2.6 billion to Elon Musk's SpaceX company to work on designs for the space capsule. Both companies will have to meet certain criteria to qualify for payment at key stages throughout the contract. The two firms have said they will have crew ships ready to launch by late 2017. Both firms will use a crew of seven astronauts for the much-anticipated launch.
The contracts demand both firms must design, build and test phases before sending up crews to fly a series of operational missions to the International Space Station (ISS) positioned 260 miles above the Earth.
Since 2011, NASA has had to rely on Russia to fly its astronauts to the ISS at a cost of an eye-watering $70 million per seat. However, on Friday Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) griped that its proposal would have cost NASA $900 million less than the one won by The Boeing Corporation. SNC cited "serious questions and inconsistencies in the source selection process" as its main protest point filing the legal challenge.
More about Dream Chaser, Charles bolden, sierra nevada, dreamchaser, NASA commercial
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