Thursday, December 15, 2011

NASA Announces Major Procurement Modification To Commercial Crew Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- NASA announced today a modified competitive procurement strategy to keep on track the agency’s plan to have U.S. companies transport American astronauts into space instead of outsourcing this work to foreign governments.

Instead of awarding contracts for the next phase of the Commercial Crew Program, the agency plans to use multiple, competitively awarded Space Act Agreements. 

NASA came under fire regarding its internal controls of Space Act contract awards from the General Accounting Office last month where the GAO stated:

"In recent years, NASA has for the first time used its other transaction authority to help fund development of large-scale commercial space transportation systems. 

In light of this unprecedented use and the fact that these agreements are not subject to many of the laws that apply to traditional contracts executed under the FAR, it is important that NASA ensure this authority is used and managed appropriately. "

According to NASA, using competitive Space Act Agreements instead of contracts will allow NASA to maintain a larger number of partners during this phase of the program, with the flexibility to adjust technical direction, milestones and funding.

This flexibility is important during a period of high budget uncertainty when NASA is receiving less funding than President Obama requested for the agency’s commercial space program.

"NASA is committed to ensuring that U.S. companies are sending American astronauts into space," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "This new acquisition strategy will allow us to preserve competition as we maintain our momentum to provide a U.S.-based commercial crew launch capability at the earliest possible time."

This competitive Space Act solicitation is separate from the work being carried out under existing Space Act Agreements.  The new competition will focus on an overall system design rather than single technology activities. Details on the new competition will be available in January.

The announcement for proposals is expected in the first quarter of 2012.  These competitively awarded Space Acts will be followed by a competitively awarded contract for the certification phase. The certification phase will ensure that the designs fully meet the safety and performance requirements for NASA utilization.

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