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SpaceX drops protest of NASA launch contract

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WASHINGTON — SpaceX has withdrawn its protest of a launch contract NASA awarded to United Launch Alliance earlier this 12 months for a planetary science mission.

SpaceX withdrew a protest April four that it had filed with the U.S. Government Accountability Office Feb. 11 regarding a NASA launch procurement formally referred to as RLSP-35. That coated a contract NASA awarded Jan. 31 to ULA for the launch of Lucy, a mission slated for launch in October 2021 to go to a number of Trojan asteroids in the identical orbit across the solar as Jupiter.

SpaceX didn’t disclose the explanation it withdrew the protest, and an organization spokesperson declined to remark when contacted by SpaceNews concerning the withdrawal. In keeping with GAO’s web site, SpaceX filed a separate protest over the identical contract March 25, which was additionally withdrawn April four. The corporate additionally declined to touch upon the distinction between the 2 protests.

When it filed the protest in February, SpaceX argued it may carry out the identical mission for a “dramatically decrease” value than the $148.three million worth of the ULA contract. “We imagine the choice to pay vastly extra to Boeing and Lockheed for a similar mission was subsequently not in one of the best curiosity of the company or the American taxpayers,” an organization spokesperson mentioned then. ULA is a three way partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

ULA mentioned that it was chosen partially as a result of it provided schedule assurance for the mission. Lucy should launch throughout a 20-day window in October 2021 as a way to perform its advanced trajectory of flybys of six Trojan asteroids and one in the principle asteroid belt. Ought to the launch miss that window, the mission can’t be flown as presently deliberate.

“This mission has a once-in-a-lifetime planetary launch window, and Atlas 5’s world-leading schedule certainty, coupled with our reliability and efficiency offered the optimum automobile for this mission,” Tory Bruno, president and chief govt of ULA, mentioned within the January assertion saying the launch contract.

SpaceX’s resolution to withdraw the protest involves a aid to many aware of growth of Lucy. They have been involved about potential further prices to the mission and threats to its schedule if GAO upheld the protest and compelled NASA to recompete the contract for the launch. That further work, akin to planning to be suitable with two totally different launch automobiles whereas the contract was recompeted, threatened to negate any launch automobile financial savings.

SpaceX, in the meantime, is transferring forward with preparations for its subsequent launch, of the Arabsat-6A satellite tv for pc on the second flight of the Falcon Heavy. The corporate mentioned the launch was now scheduled for April 9 from Kennedy House Heart’s Launch Complicated 39A after the rocket’s three booster cores carried out a static-fire check on the pad April 5.

“That is first launch of Falcon Heavy Block 5, so we’re being further cautious. Launch date would possibly transfer,” SpaceX Chief Government Elon Musk tweeted after the static-fire check.

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