GAO Denies Protest of $3.01 and $2.55 Billion NASA Commercial Space Transportation Awards

The Comptroller General has denied Sierra Nevada Corporation’s protest of two contract awards for the development of commercial crew space transportation capability.

The technical evaluation subfactor of the request for proposals included consideration of the offeror’s approach to obtaining government certification of its transportation system by 2017.

Three contractors submitted proposals: Sierra, of Louisville, Colorado; The Boeing Company, Space Exploration, of Houston, Texas; and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, of Hawthorne, California.

The source selection authority selected Boeing’s highest-rated $3.01 billion proposal and SpaceX’s second highest-rated $1.75 billion proposal over Sierra’s $2.55 billion proposal.

According to the protester, the government improperly emphasized certification in 2017 as a critical evaluation factor, and elevated the goal to a de facto mandatory solicitation requirement.

However, the RFP clearly advised offerors their proposals would be evaluated against the goal of certification by the end of 2017. Thus, consistent with the terms of the RFP, the government considered the extent to which offerors demonstrated their ability to meet this objective.

The record demonstrated “no improper consideration of schedule by the SSA.” Instead, the record showed that the SSA “conducted a fulsome analysis of the underlying strengths and weaknesses of the three proposals, highlighting areas in which the [evaluators] and SSA perceived discriminators between the proposed approaches, and concluded that [the protester’s] proposal did not represent the best value to the government.” According to the Comptroller General, “[s]uch a comparative analysis is a hallmark of a rational best-value award decision.”

The Comptroller General also rejected the protester’s challenge to the conduct of discussions, and to the price realism, technical, and past performance evaluations.

For the full text of the decision, see Sierra Nevada Corporation, B-410485,B-410485.2,B-410485.3,  January 5, 2015.

About William Van Huis

Bill Van Huis is a Senior Writer/Analyst for Wolters Kluwer Law & Business who tracks and analyzes new regulations impacting federal government contracting. He also follows court decisions involving bid protests and contract disputes. You can find his work in WK publications like Government Contract Reports and the FAR and DFARS Matrix Tools. Bill is a Certified Professional Contracts Manager, and he has a law degree from Southern Illinois University, where he graduated summa cum laude. Prior to joining WK, Bill worked both inside and outside state and local government in the areas of procurement and municipal finance. Bill also worked as a staff attorney for the Illinois Supreme Court.
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