Protest halts Nasa spaceflight plans
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Nasa’s plans to work on two new commercial spacecraft face a delay following a formal protest about the contract award process.
The complaint has been filed by an eliminated contender.
Nasa administrator Charles Bolden said the protest had been lodged by Sierra Nevada Corporation in relation to its Dreamchaser spaceplane proposal.
He was speaking in Toronto at the opening of the week-long International Astronautical Congress (IAC).
The issue will keep the agency from moving forward with the next phase of its commercial crew programme until the issue has been resolved.
Nasa has 30 days to respond and the US government accountability office is expected to issue its ruling in early January 2015.
Just two weeks ago, the US space agency awarded a $4.2bn contract to The Boeing Corporation and $2.6bn to Elon Musk’s SpaceX company to pursue its space capsule designs.
Both firms must meet specified technical milestones to qualify for stage payments and have stated their seven-person crew ships could be ready to launch astronauts by late 2017.
The contracts will be used to complete design, build and test phases before flying crews on up to six operational missions to the space station 260 miles (418 km) above Earth.
They are the culmination of a four-year programme to restore US-based human spaceflight capability following the retirement of the last of the three remaining space shuttles in 2011.
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