NASA Cancels Spacesuit Contract to Avoid Litigation

by Nancy Atkinson on August 18, 2008

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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

About 

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

David R. August 18, 2008 at 1:06 PM

The Great Cost Overlay Debacle of ’08 is a preview of the mission. Upon finally securing a contract, NASA will then announce an additional $1 billion is needed to complete the suit design…it will be discovered that someone forgot to design a helmet, a minor but important detail. Afterwards, the same team that came up with the original figure for the spacesuits will be utilized to create launch simulations to the moon. The launch will go as planned, but it will be discovered after sending the first mission to the moon that a “mathematical shortfall” was discovered, thus hurtling the first team off course toward a confirmed “void” in space. With the absence of dark matter in the region, the mission will be literally stuck in the middle of nowhere. Meanwhile, Eric Tyson will be brought in for perspective. Much to everyone’s shock, he begins shouting obscenities at the stranded mission, insisting Pluto is a comet. Then the remnants of the Phoenix Lander Team will barge in and redirect the entire mission control toward Mars, insisting that perchlorate must be studied further. This of course diverts attention from Project Lucifer, and Jupiter becomes a star after all. The moon mission is pulled into orbit around the new star, and their last known transmission goes something like, “My God, it’s full of stars.” Hey, it could happen.

Benjamin August 18, 2008 at 5:22 PM

hahah very clever

Chris Coles August 19, 2008 at 12:21 AM

Whoever signed off on that contract should be publicly fired and expelled from NASA. Whoever led the team that oversaw the submission process on that contract should also be fired. This sort of thing destroys the credibility of NASA as a contracting organisation. And I do mean destroys. If an organisation that is asking external contractors to spend vast sums of their own money on a submission process cannot be trusted, (to act in a proper manner to outside contractors), then the process is completely discredited, as also the organisation itself.

NASA must work very rapidly indeed to show everyone that they have corrected this and put their house in order.

Peter Brouwer August 19, 2008 at 8:14 AM

Give someone else ago
Sour grapes me thinks…….

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