NASA drops Boeing from space station cargo competition

Thu Nov 5, 2015 6:27pm EST
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By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - U.S. space agency NASA has dropped Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote) from a multibillion-dollar competition to fly cargo to the International Space Station and will delay selecting one or more winners for about two months, officials said on Thursday.

Losing the contract is another blow to Boeing's defense, space and security business, coming days after Boeing lost the Long Range Strike Bomber competition, a major Pentagon contract estimated to be worth up to $80 billion.

Boeing was offering an unmanned version of its Starliner CST-100 space taxi, under development as part of a separate NASA $4.2 billion program to transport crew to the space station.

“We received a letter from NASA and are out of CRS-2,” Boeing spokeswoman Kelly Kaplan wrote in an email, referring to NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. Boeing had previously suggested that its entry could have future uses for private customers as well.

“I don’t think we'll know the ‘why’ until our debrief with NASA,” she added.

NASA, which had been expected to announce the competition winners on Thursday, declined to comment on its reasons for dropping Boeing, citing a communications blackout while it evaluates bids. Spokeswoman Kathryn Hambleton said the contract award date had been pushed back to January 30, 2016, to give the agency time to evaluate all the proposals.

"This is a very complex procurement," she said.

NASA previously said it intended to award multiple contracts, each including at least six cargo flights to and from the station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.   Continued...

Tourists take pictures of a NASA sign at the Kennedy Space Center visitors complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida April 14, 2010.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria