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SpaceX protests NASA launch contract — Lucy mission on hold

SpaceX, in its official protest to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, is contesting the $148.3 million contract NASA awarded to ULA for a 2021 unprecedented mission to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.

The protest filed on February 11, refers to a NASA procurement formally known as RLSP-35. The contract is for the launch of the Lucy mission to the Trojan asteroids of Jupiter, awarded by NASA to ULA January 31, at a total cost to the agency of $148.3 million. The agency has until May 22 to respond.

In a statement, a SpaceX company spokesperson told the Washington Post, “Since SpaceX has started launching missions for NASA, this is the first time the company has challenged one of the agency’s award decisions.”

“SpaceX offered a solution with extraordinarily high confidence of mission success at a price dramatically lower than the award amount, so we believe the decision to pay vastly more to Boeing and Lockheed for the same mission was therefore not in the best interest of the agency or the American taxpayers,” the spokesperson added.

The Jupiter trojans are divided into two groups: The Greek camp in front of and the Trojan camp trai...

The Jupiter trojans are divided into two groups: The Greek camp in front of and the Trojan camp trailing behind Jupiter in their orbit.
Mdf at English Wikipedia

Lucy Mission is now on hold
The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that NASA has put the Lucy Mission on hold, meaning that ULA, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, cannot work on the project until a decision has been reached by the GAO.

NASA spokesperson, Tracy Young added, “NASA is always cognizant of its mission schedule, but we are not able to comment on pending litigation.”

The Lucy Mission is particularly complex because it only has a three-week window for a successful launch that will allow the spacecraft to “throw itself out into a celestial alignment that will not occur again for decades.” The launch window occurs for 20 days in October 2021.

The mission will then have the spacecraft engage in a series of flybys in order to visit several asteroids either leading or following Jupiter in its orbit around the sun. Should the launch vehicle not be ready by the launch date, the mission cannot be flown as currently planned.

ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye also issued a statement on February 13, according to Space News: “ULA entered into an open competition for NASA’s Lucy spacecraft and was honored to be awarded this important science mission. This interplanetary mission has an extremely narrow launch window in order to reach all of the desired planetary bodies and accomplish the science objectives. If Lucy misses this launch window, the full mission cannot be accomplished for decades.”

Skeleton and restoration model of Lucy (Australopithecus). Exhibit in the National Museum of Nature ...

Skeleton and restoration model of Lucy (Australopithecus). Exhibit in the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Japan.

What is the Lucy Mission?
Jupiter’s swarms of Trojan asteroids may be remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, and could even be “time capsules” holding information on the birth of our solar system over 4 billion years ago. The Trojans orbit the sun along with Jupiter in two loose groups, one group always ahead of Jupiter in its path, and one group always behind the planet.

If anyone wonders where the name Lucy comes from, think about a Beetle’s song and the fossilized human ancestor, Lucy, whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity’s evolution. Lucy is a Discovery class mission led by principal investigator Harold “Hal” Levison from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will provide overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver will build the spacecraft. Instruments will be provided by Goddard, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and Arizona State University, according to the NASA Lucy website.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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