NASA Cancels Spacesuit Contract to Avoid Litigation

by Nancy Atkinson on August 18, 2008

Proposed spacesuits from Oceaneering, Inc. Image: NASA

Proposed spacesuits from Oceaneering, Inc. Image: NASA

NASA has terminated a contract with the company it hired to design and construct new spacesuits for use with the new Orion spacecraft after determining it made a mistake in evaluating costs. In terminating the contract NASA hopes to avoid litigation. In June, NASA announced it had selected Oceaneering International, Inc. to build the new spacesuits, but Hamilton Sundstrand, the lead contractor that has supplied spacesuits for NASA since the 1960’s filed a formal protest with the Government Accounting Office on the decision, asking NASA to review its reasoning on the contract award. Hamilton Sundstrand disagreed with the way NASA evaluated the costs for their proposal. NASA has now issued a press release saying “corrective action is appropriate,” and they have “determined that a compliance issue requires the termination of the contract” with Oceaneering “for the convenience of the government.” It appears NASA did some bad math, or used questionable processes to make its decision for the contract.

Hamilton Sundstrand claimed it never received adequate information from NASA about why its bid did not win. Also, NASA failed to request a “cost-accounting standards disclosure statement from Oceaneering during its deliberations,” according to a Wall Street Journal article. A government accounting office letter also said that “The agency must re-examine both offers’ cost proposals. To the extent that any irregularities are identified, appropriate re-evaluation must be made.”

The three-phase $745 million contract called for 109 suits, 24 of which will be the lunar suits.

NASA may have start again from scratch and reopen the bidding for the spacesuit contract.
In a statement Friday, Hamilton Sundstrand said its wants “corrective action” and they are concerned that revisions to the proposal may not correct the “significant errors and deficiencies in the procurement we have protested thus far.”

Sources: Wall Street Journal, NASA press release


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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