GAO Denies SNC Dream Chaser Protest

Dream Deferred: Image Credit SNC

The New Year did not bring good news for Sierra Nevada and its Dream Chaser space plane. As most expected would be the case, the GAO notified SNC that it is denying the company’s protest over NASA’s Commercial Crew award to Boeing and SpaceX.

GAO said in part:

“In making its selection decision, NASA concluded that the proposals submitted by Boeing and SpaceX represented the best value to the government. Specifically, NASA recognized Boeing’s higher price, but also considered Boeing’s proposal to be the strongest of all three proposals in terms of technical approach, management approach, and past performance, and to offer the crew transportation system with most utility and highest value to the government. NASA also recognized several favorable features in the Sierra Nevada and SpaceX proposals, but ultimately concluded that SpaceX’s lower price made it a better value than the proposal submitted by Sierra Nevada.

GAO disagreed with Sierra Nevada’s arguments about NASA’s evaluation, and found no undue emphasis on NASA’s consideration of each offeror’s proposed schedule, and likelihood to achieve crew transportation system certification not later than 2017. GAO also noted that, contrary to Sierra Nevada’s assertions, the RFP clearly advised offerors that their proposals would be evaluated against the goal of certification by the end of 2017.

Sierra Nevada also argued that NASA conducted an inadequate review of the realism of SpaceX’s price and overall financial resources, conducted a flawed and disparate evaluation of proposals under the mission suitability evaluation factor, and improperly evaluated the relevance of offerors’ past performance. Based on our review of the issues, we concluded that these arguments were not supported by the evaluation record or by the terms of the solicitation.”

The complete statement is here, and for the time being it will have to suffice, as little more with be forthcoming until all parties involved provide redacted versions of documents to avoid disclosing proprietary data.

In response to the decision, NASA issued the following statement:

“The GAO has notified NASA that it has denied Sierra Nevada Corporation’s protest of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract awards. NASA is pleased the GAO’s decision allows the agency to move forward and continue working with Boeing and SpaceX on the Launch America initiative that will enable safe and reliable crew transportation to and from the International Space Station on American spacecraft launched from the United States, ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia for such transportation. The case remains under the protective order and blackout until the GAO releases its decision.”

Though the news was certainly disappointing, if not particularly surprising, it is not necessarily the end for Dream Chaser, as evidenced by the response from Sierra Nevada Corporation:

SPARKS, Nev. (Jan. 5, 2015) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) was advised today that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has denied the company’s protest challenging the outcome of NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract award. At this stage, SNC is evaluating the GAO decision. While the outcome was not what SNC expected, we maintain our belief that the Dream Chaser® spacecraft is technically very capable, reliable and was qualified to win based on NASA’s high ratings of the space system. We appreciate the time and effort contributed to this process by the GAO and NASA to fully evaluate such a critical decision for the United States.

The company is privileged to have been part of NASA’s Commercial Space Program since its inception over 8 years ago. SNC remains fully committed to being a part of returning world-class human spaceflight and enhanced cargo capabilities to low-Earth orbit. In doing so, SNC firmly believes that the Dream Chaser will play a central role in shaping the future of space transportation with its unique capabilities which address a wide spectrum of needs. To that end, SNC has submitted its response to NASA’s Commercial Cargo Resupply Services 2 procurement and will continue to support that effort while maintaining its existing mutually beneficial and long-term relationship with NASA.

SNC also plans to further the development and testing of the Dream Chaser and is making significant progress in its vehicle design and test program. In addition, SNC is continuing to expand its existing, while developing new, partnerships domestically and abroad in order to expand the multi-mission flexibility of the system, reduce overall long-term costs of the vehicle and ensure long-term affordability and sustainability for the Dream Chaser. Customers worldwide will benefit from multiple commercial space transportation providers for commercial space access, research and operations.


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