Status Report

Letter to Charles Bolden from Senators Feinstein and Boxer Re: Sole Source for the Space Launch System

By SpaceRef Editor
June 2, 2011
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Letter to Charles Bolden from Senators Feinstein and Boxer Re: Sole Source for the Space Launch System

United States Senate

May 27, 2011

The Honorable Charles Bolden
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NASA Headquarters
Washington DC 20546-000 1

Dear Administrator Bolden:

We write to ask that NASA quickly open a competitive bidding process on the propulsion component of the new Space Launch System (SLS). A competitive process will allow NASA to procure better technology at lower initial and lifecycle costs.

In this time of constrained budgets, it would be inexcusible to funnel billions of taxpayer dollars into a non-competitive sole-source contract for the new Space Launch System. By allowing a competitive process, NASA could realize hundreds of millions of dollars in annual savings, and billions in savings over the life of the program. Furthermore, a competitive process will build capacity and enhance the critical skills and capabilities at a wide range of aerospace technology companies.

We believe a competitive process is consistent with the NASA Reauthorization Act of 2010. As you know, this legislation directed the agency to construct a new human rated spacecraft by 2016 while utilizing existing contracts where “practicable.” However, NASA itself has already concluded that such a plan is not practicable. The January 2011 report issued by your agency entitled the “Preliminary Report Regarding NASA’s Space Launch System and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle” concluded that “NASA does not believe this goal is achievable based on a combination of the current funding profile estimate, traditional approaches to acquisition, and currently considered vehicle architectures.”

Based on this conclusion, we believe that it is not “practicable” to continue the existing contracts. Instead, we believe that NASA should open a competitive bidding process for the SLS to ensure that the agency obtains the best technology at the lowest possible cost.

Our national space program is already under public scrutiny as a result of delays and cost overruns; new non-competitive billion dollar contracts will only further inflame those who question the need to make these investments.

We recognize that this is a controversial issue, and we hope to work with you to ensure that the final decision is in the best interest of the American taxpayer, not parochial special interest groups. We appreciate your consideration of our request and we look forward to your prompt response.


Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Cc: Jack Lew, Director, Office of Management and Budget

SpaceRef staff editor.