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SpaceX calls a contract to launch the ULA NASA "significantly" overpriced at the official protest



SpaceX filed an official protest to the GAO, after NASA has marked the competitor of the United Launch Alliance contract for the launch of Lucy, an interplanetary probe designed to study the belt of unique asteroids collected around the Jupiter orbital strip.

January 31, SpaceX believes NASA has made a decision that meets the interests of the agency and US taxpayers by awarding a ULA contract to launch Lucy worth $ 148 million, which company believes is much larger [expensive]

With productivity approximately equivalent to a Falcon 9 Block 5 SpaceX missile in multiple configurations when launching from a low orbit (LEO ) to the geostationary orbit (GTO), the ULA Atlas V 401 version is the simplest version of the rocket family with the lowest relative performance. According to RocketBuilder, Atlas V 401 was registered at a base price of $ 109 million in 2017. The launch (for USAF GPS III of $ 530 million) was awarded at a price of $ 83 million, with three subsequent contracts for the launch of GPS III, which later received $ 97 million.

In relation to almost any possible contract for the near term. On the horizon, contracts for launching GPS III SpaceX are a peculiar price for Falcon 9, where the client requires an extraordinary mission warranty, and the entire missile should be spent on startup. In other words, NASA is likely to be able to get the reliability, performance and mission security that it wants / needs from Falcon 9, possibly $ 50 million. Less than the cost of the proposed ULA, which is equivalent to reducing by more than a third of the price. Part of NASA's Discovery program, the Lucy spacecraft will be limited to $ 450 million without launch costs, which means that the choice of SpaceX over the ULA can reduce the overall mission cost by at least 8-10%.

for NASA is the first time that a company has appealed one of the agency's decisions. SpaceX has offered a solution with an extremely high degree of confidence in the mission's mission at a price much lower than the premium, so we believe that the decision to pay much more for Boeing and Lockheed for the same mission, therefore, does not meet the interests of the agency or American taxpayers. SpaceX, February 13, 2019

The fact remains that Lucy's mission faces a unique, complex launch trajectory, offering only one launch window in about three weeks after being effectively developed by the mission, becomes impossible. The absence of this window could lead to hundreds of millions of dollars spent by NASA on processing and delays, unless triggered by a direct cancellation of the mission. Thus, NASA and ULA have entered into a contract to launch a contract and ~ 50% of the premium in terms of what ULA claims to be – is "world-class confidence based on the schedule of the V-Atlas." Except for other ULA, Delta IV, Atlas V missiles, it has a respectable track record that remains true to its contractual goals. But, Falcon 9 SpaceX & # 39; & # 39; The schedule of confidence & # 39; continues to improve as the car's missile mature

It should be admitted that while Falcon 9 gotten far better in reliably launching its 5-10-day pre-static fire test, Spacex continued to struggle for a useful launch load within a week or two customer goals. Despite this, October 2021 is over two and a half years, giving SpaceX a huge amount of time and dozens of discovered Falcon 9 launches to achieve a level of operational maturity and design stability comparable to that of the changed Atlas V. Minimum for 16+ years and 79 runs.

In October 2010, NASA awarded ULA a $ 187 million contract to launch its MAVEN Mars orbiter on the Atlas V 401. In December 2013, ULA won a $ 163 million contract on the Atlas V 401. In January In 2019, ULA was awarded a contract for NASA Lucy's spacecraft, priced at $ 148.3M for the 2021 Atlas V 401 launch. Simply put, if ULA uses darts and eyes to determine contract pricing or aggressive reciprocal inflation, the very existence of SpaceX is already fueling competition, especially when start-up contracts compete directly with their parent agencies. or companies. SpaceX's protest is not entirely justified or endorsed by everything that can be ensured that the fact that SpaceX was there to compete with the ULA did force the company at all to cut from $ 20-40M from the price that otherwise would be desirable to make NASA Saving another $ 50 million. Of course, not worse, what will happen to American taxpayers, but this is not the end of the world.


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