The questions raised by protests against SpaceX's lunar lander win

Blue Origin and Dynetics file protests over SpaceX's NASA lunar lander win and the challenges will raise questions about how price, competition and technical solutions being offered all play a role in making major contract awards.

No surprise here: Dynetics and Blue Origin have filed protests against NASA's award of the lunar lander contract to SpaceX.

In their protests at the Government Accountability Office, Dynetics (a subsidiary of Leidos) and Blue Origin argue NASA didn’t conduct a proper evaluation. If it had, one of their proposals would have been selected.

The contract that went to SpaceX is worth $2.89 billion, but the bid by Blue Origin came in at $6 billion, according to the first report by the New York Times. Blue Origin claims NASA went back to negotiate with SpaceX over the pricing but didn’t give them the same opportunity.

Blue Origin also argues NASA misjudged the advantages of its proposal and downplayed the technical challenges SpaceX faces, the company told the NY Times.

In a statement, Dynetics said it has issues with several aspects of the acquisition process and technical evaluation that GAO should address. Dynetics also emphasized the need for continuing competition to ensure the success of the program.

Until it made a single award to SpaceX, NASA had given strong indicators it would make two awards to keep that element of competition -- to drive innovation and lower costs -- as part of the program.

But all prices including SpaceX's were higher than NASA anticipated and the agency said at the time of award that it couldn’t afford to make two awards.

The interplay of the technical solution, competition and price is what I find interesting here. I hope we learn more about all of those when GAO issues a decision in 100 days. Unless of course there is a corrective action ahead of that. Either way, I think we’ll learn something significant.

I think about the arguments that floated around the JEDI cloud infrastructure contract -- one provider versus multiple providers. The Defense Department has argued there will be plenty of competition and that it believes that there will always be multiple cloud providers. But why pick just one?

JEDI of course remains mired in a lawsuit filed by Amazon Web Services. (By coincidence, Blue Origin is led by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.)

In its solicitation, NASA said it valued competition and wanted to pick two prime contractors. By picking just SpaceX, NASA didn’t go against the letter of its solicitation. It never promised two winners, just that it would pick up to two. Now that NASA has picked one, it says there will be future competition that others can bid on.

NASA is trying to send the message that no one is locked out. But just think of the first mover advantage that SpaceX now has if the single award holds. That will be hard for anyone to overcome.

Some of the challenges to SpaceX’s technical solution also will be interesting because a moonshot is a heavier lift (pun intended) then delivering astronauts to the International Space Station. I can’t judge the technical solutions, but the reasoning over the pick will be informative.

Then there is price. It goes right back to the story of the first astronauts getting ready for lift-off and they joke they are in a rocket built by the lowest bidder. We need to see more on how NASA weighed price into the decision.

It’ll be interesting to about NASA’s reasoning when GAO comes out with its decision. I don’t have an exact date, but 100 days puts the date in early August. It’ll be here before we know it.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.