SpaceX has filed a protest hard a nearly $a hundred and fifty million NASA contract presented to United Launch Alliance closing month to ship a robotic asteroid probe into the area.
The protest submitted to the Government Accountability Office on Feb. Eleven questions a release agreement for NASA’s Lucy technological know-how task to United Launch Alliance. NASA announced Jan. 31 that ULA gained the release agreement for the Lucy project, set for liftoff in October 2021 from Cape Canaveral aboard ULA’s Atlas five rocket.
SpaceX stated in an assertion that it can launch the Lucy undertaking for much less than the $148.Three million presented to ULA, a 50-50 joint assignment among aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
“Since SpaceX has begun launching missions for NASA, that is the primary time the organization has challenged one of the employer’s award decisions,” a SpaceX spokesperson said in an announcement. “SpaceX presented a solution with tremendously high self-assurance of venture fulfillment at a fee dramatically decrease than the award quantity, so we consider the decision to pay vastly more to Boeing and Lockheed for the same project become consequently now not within the first-class hobby of the company or the American taxpayers.”
NASA confirmed the protest, announcing that the organization issued a prevent paintings order on the Lucy project after SpaceX’s submitting with the GAO. In response to an inquiry from Spaceflight Now, a NASA spokesperson later clarified that the prevent work order affects only the Lucy launch settlement, not other work at the venture, which functions a spacecraft constructed through Lockheed Martin and a technological know-how team managed with the aid of Hal Levison, a researcher based at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
In an announcement pronouncing the launch settlement final month, ULA said NASA decided on the Atlas five rocket for the Lucy assignment after a “competitive launch provider mission order assessment” by way of the gap business enterprise’s Launch Services Program. ULA’s Atlas five and Delta 4 rockets are certified to launch NASA’s robotic interplanetary technology missions, along with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launcher. Both organizations are predicted to publish bids for every project order competition managed the Launch Services Program.
NASA decided on ULA’s Atlas 5 variation without any stable rocket boosters — called the “401” automobile configuration — for the Lucy undertaking. SpaceX’s Falcon nine rocket additionally has the carrying capacity to send the Lucy spacecraft on its interplanetary trajectory, assuming the Falcon nine dedicates all of its propellants to the launch, leaving no fuel reserve for a touchdown the first degree on land or at sea.
Lucy will come across seven asteroids in the course of its 12-year undertaking, starting with a prime belt asteroid, then intending via swarms of small objects that lead and trail Jupiter in its orbit across the solar. Lucy might be the first challenge to go to this own family of asteroids, referred to as Trojans, locked in Jupiter-kind orbits.
Scientists agree with the Trojan asteroids represent a numerous sample of the forms of small planetary constructing blocks that populated the solar system after its formation four.5 billion years in the past. Read our in advance story for information at the venture’s scientific goals.
The Lucy spacecraft is predicted to weigh no greater than three,163 pounds (1,435 kilograms) at release, with fuel loaded, in line with Levison, the chief scientist at the challenge.
“ULA entered into an open competition for NASA’s Lucy spacecraft and was venerated to be provided this important technology project,” the corporation stated in a declaration. “This interplanetary undertaking has an incredibly narrow release window so that you can reach all the desired planetary bodies and achieve the science objectives. If Lucy misses this release window, the overall undertaking cannot be finished for many years.”
ULA touted its record of “time table truth” whilst officers introduced the Lucy release settlement ultimate month, highlighting the Atlas 5’s document of launching on time, or as a minimum close to its unique release date.
“We couldn’t be extra thrilled that NASA has selected ULA to release this amazing planetary technological know-how mission,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and chief executive officer, in a Jan. 31 statement. “This assignment has an as soon as-in-a-lifetime planetary launch window, and Atlas 5’s world-main schedule truth, coupled with our reliability and performance furnished the gold standard automobile for this mission.”
The Lucy launch window opens Oct. Sixteen, 2021, and extends about 20 days. The release will position Lucy into a heliocentric orbit around the solar, and the probe will go back to Earth’s vicinity 365 days after its liftoff — in October 2022 — to apply the planet’s gravity to slingshot towards the outer sun device.
A fortuitous alignment of Lucy’s asteroid targets will allow the challenge to go to seven items — such as one binary asteroid — via 2033, giving scientists get entry to a big selection of Trojan asteroids, believed to be icy relics left over from the formation of the planets.
“The orbits of the Lucy targets are actually aligning a good way to make the undertaking paintings,” Levison said. “There is, consequently, a completely unique trajectory for the spacecraft, and therefore a totally precise launch period. It is feasible for us to release roughly 12 months later during what would be the primary (Earth gravity help) in our nominal trajectory.
“While this would preserve our goal list due to the fact we’re launching onto the equal trajectory, it’s far less than most suitable for numerous motives,” Levison said.
If the liftoff slipped to 2022, a more effective launcher would be required to present Lucy the enhance it had to make up for the speed imparted for the duration of the Earth gravity assist maneuver, in line with Levison.
NASA said it is “constantly cognizant of its assignment agenda,” however a spokesperson declined to remark similarly on pending litigation.
The Government Accountability Office has until May 22 to rule on SpaceX’s settlement protest.
According to the GAO’s own facts, the workplace sustained 15 percent of contract protests in the financial year 2018. In the sort of case, the GAO says it recommends corrective movements to federal agencies to resolve the issues of the protest. The recommended corrective moves may additionally include the termination of a contract, a brand new solicitation or opposition for the contract in a query, and compensation of the protester’s fees to document the mission with the GAO and prepare its unique settlement bid.