SpaceX lost out on an Air Force Launch Services Agreement (LSA) to three competitors: ULA; Blue Origin; and Northrop Grumman. Each of the other three got contracts. SpaceX unsuccessfully protested administratively and recently filed a complaint in the Court of Federal Claims.
Some source files on the SpaceX complaint are given below.
It’s hard to write anything detailed because we do not have access to the Air Force decision document, although SpaceX makes several references to errors in it.
I was reasonably familiar with what went on in Boeing’s protest of the Air Force KC-X contract. After that fiasco, one would think that the Air Force would not screw things up.
This is much different from the KC-X competition in that KC-X involved a limited number of very objective criteria/standards and parameters of actual aircraft that those standards could be applied to.
The LSA award involves a large number of fairly nebulous criteria and highly subjective speculation about meeting them.
In general, SpaceX’s complaint is well written and persuasive. Some of the Air Force decision logic is clearly bizarre.
One example of strangeness relates to the fact that the three winners are to be whittled down to two in Phase 2. Blue Origin has certain overlapping technologies with the other two winners. ULA is using a Blue Origin first stage engine and Blue Origin is using Northrop Grumman boosters. Thus, if Blue Origin moves on to Phase 2, it will be sharing a very significant source of project risk with the other winner. Thus, the program loses a key aspect of the redundancy and fault tolerance of having two providers.
Another example involves the Air Force being skeptical of SpaceX’s horizontal vehicle integration (assembling the rocket horizontally and then uprighting it for launch). But the Air Force counts this twice against SpaceX. First, they count horizontal integration as a program risk, then in the financial analysis they include the cost of adding vertical integration to SpaceX’s proposal which would moot the program risk.
Either SpaceX will win or I have another chapter in my book ”Everything I learned in Law School has been crapped upon by the last 20 years”.