GAO Denies SpaceX Protest of Launch Contract

[Satellite TODAY 02-26-10] The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has denied SpaceX’s protest of NASA’s contract with Orbital Sciences Corp. to launch a scientific satellite for NASA in 2012, the GAO announced Feb. 24.
    SpaceX filed a protest with the GAO that the contract, which would see Orbital launch the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) satellite on the new Minotaur 5 rocket, was not competitively awarded. SpaceX also claimed the contract violated the Commercial Space Act of 1998, which requires government agencies to buy commercial launch services from U.S. providers and disqualifies Orbital because the Minotaur rocket uses government-provided hardware.
    The GAO found that NASA conducted proper contract procedures and that the Minotaur 5 rocket provided lower risk factors than SpaceX’s Falcon 9. The GAO also found that the Falcon 9 rocket would be too expensive for NASA at a price of $47 million compared to $27 million for the Minotaur. 

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