SpaceX is set to launch its 7th Commercial Resupply mission to the International Space Station on June 28th, but based on a notice posted by NASA last Friday, it may be adding at least for more missions to the count through an extension which would see the original contract run through 2018. Fellow supplier Orbital-ATK, which is still recovering from last year’s October 28th launch failure of its Antares booster as part of the Orb-3 mission, stands to receive additional orders as well.
The reason given for the no-bid extension is that it is necessary to allow new bidders under the yet to be awarded CRS2 contract to demonstrate their ability to successfully integrate their systems with ISS prior to performing under the new contract.
“Orbital and SpaceX were required to prove that their vehicles could successfully integrate with the ISS to deliver cargo. This seminal milestone took place under Commercial Orbital Transportation System (COTS) agreements. Demonstrating successful ISS integration is essential to limiting NASAs risk of damage occurring to valuable cargo and/or damage being done to the ISS itself. Orbital demonstrated successful ISS integration in June 2013 and SpaceX demonstrated successful ISS integration in April 2012. Hence, any party that is interested must have demonstrated successful ISS integration upon submission of any response. SpaceX and Orbital are the only U.S. commercial providers who have demonstrated this capability to date.”
In other words its appears that Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Sierra Nevada would all have to actually demonstrate their capabilities with a “test” mission similar to what was accomplished under COTS by SpaceX and Orbital. Given that Boeing is already working on its CST-100 system under the entirely separately Commercial Crew program, from a financial viewpoint at least, the performance requirement would appear benefit Boeing more than the Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada or a possible silent bid by Blue Origin.
SpaceX has previously received an additional 3 orders beyond the original 12 which were awarded in 2008, with Orbital-ATK receiving a single extra flight assignment. The contract extension, which was hinted at by NASA Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier in April, comes as the agency has delayed the award date for the follow-on CRS-2 contract until September. Five bidders including SpaceX, Orbital-ATK, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Sierra Nevada have confirmed that they submitted CRS-2 bids, which would run through 2020 with likely extensions through 2024. All except SpaceX appear to be banking on the continued availability of Russian built rocket engines for first stage launch even as debate rages in Congress regarding a similar dependence for U.S. military access to space. The current provision at the heart of the ban on the RD-180 engines which powers the Atlas V does not apply to non-national security launches.
The complete solicitation is included below:
Added: Jun 18, 2015 11:11 am
NASA/JSC intends to extend the existing Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contracts NNJ09GA02B, with Orbital Sciences Corporation, hereinafter referred to as Orbital, and NNJ09GA04B, with Space Exploration Technologies, hereinafter referred to as SpaceX for up to 12 months from December 2017 to December 2018 at no cost. Both contracts were awarded in December 2008 and have a not to exceed (NTE) contract value of 3.1B each.
NASA/JSC has a requirement to perform all tasks necessary to ensure safe and reliable cargo integration and transportation to and from the International Space Station (ISS). With the extension of ISS to 2024, NASA intends to procure follow-on Commercial Resupply Services (CRS2) through the life of the program through full and open competition. The extension of the existing CRS contracts allows possible new providers the opportunity to address the readiness requirements necessary to show ISS integration capability before cargo services are required.
The Standard Resupply Mission may consist of pressurized upmass delivery, unpressurized upmass delivery, cargo disposal, or cargo return. Cargo includes both NASA-owned cargo and NASA-sponsored cargo and both pressurized and unpressurized payloads. The supplies to be delivered by terms of the contract include air, water, food, clothing, medicine, spare parts, and scientific experiments for use in the U.S. and International Partner experimental modules. The place of performance and launch site is identified in each task order.
Both providers are needed to provide these services to reduce the risk to the Agency. Two viable providers are needed to guarantee assured cargo access to the ISS in the event one contractor fails to successfully deliver cargo. An interruption of contract performance would jeopardize the timely delivery of critical cargo.
The statutory authority for proceeding with this acquisition under Other Than Full and Open Competition is 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1) as contemplated by the provision of FAR 6.302-1(a)(2)(iii), which states that full and open competition need not be provided when the services required by the Agency may be deemed to be available from one original source, in the case of a follow-on contract, for the continued provision of highly specialized services. The provision also states that this exception is applicable when it is likely that award to any other source would result in unacceptable delays in fulfilling the Agencys requirements and substantial duplication of cost to the Government that is not expected to be recovered through competition would be incurred. Both contracts will be extended under this authority.
Orbital and SpaceX were required to prove that their vehicles could successfully integrate with the ISS to deliver cargo. This seminal milestone took place under Commercial Orbital Transportation System (COTS) agreements. Demonstrating successful ISS integration is essential to limiting NASAs risk of damage occurring to valuable cargo and/or damage being done to the ISS itself. Orbital demonstrated successful ISS integration in June 2013 and SpaceX demonstrated successful ISS integration in April 2012. Hence, any party that is interested must have demonstrated successful ISS integration upon submission of any response. SpaceX and Orbital are the only U.S. commercial providers who have demonstrated this capability to date.
The Government intends to acquire a commercial item using FAR Part 12. Interested organizations may submit their capabilities and qualifications to perform the effort in writing to the identified point of contact not later than 12:00 p.m. local time on June 22, 2015. Such capabilities/qualifications will be evaluated solely for the purpose of determining whether or not to conduct this procurement on a competitive basis. A determination by the Government not to compete this proposed effort on a full and open competition basis, based upon responses to this notice, is solely within the discretion of the government.