Possible Lawsuit Will Damage Our Ability To Use The International Space Station

By Keith Cowing
April 25, 2012
Filed under
Possible Lawsuit Will Damage Our Ability To Use The International Space Station

Sources report that ProOrbis is considering taking formal legal action against the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). It is expected that this will be made public in the very near future. The specifics of this possible lawsuit are unclear.  But it would be instructive to recall that when Jeanne L. Becker, the first Executive DIrector of CASIS resigned she said:

“Unrealistic expectations have been levied collectively by Congressional staffers, by NASA (Mr. Uhran) and by ProOrbis. These pressures have placed unnecessary stress and hardship on CASIS, not only organizationally but also on management, forcing a defensive posture with constant focus on mitigation strategies to fend off political threats of the elimination of CASIS. … Now, for unknown reasons, following selection of that proposal and stand up of the organization, the Space Florida interim board persists in pursuing engagement of ProOrbis on behalf of CASIS, with CASIS management forced to bear the responsibility of mitigating ensuing organizational risks occurring as a result of the interim board’s actions.”

To which ProOrbis responded

“However, since taking on this role, [Dr. Becker] has not engaged ProOrbis in the stand-up activities of CASIS as was contemplated. Issues of conflict of interest for all the principal parties were satisfactorily addressed in the Cooperative Agreement and provisions were put in place to mitigate any potential conflicts.”

Jeanne DiFrancesco from ProOrbis developed a significant portion of the procurement package for NASA’s ISS National Laboratory non-profit partner: the National Laboratory Reference Model. Oddly, DiFrancesco and ProOrbis ended up as a major part of the winning team’s bid (CASIS). How is it that a contractor that NASA specifically uses to write part of a solicitation is then allowed to bid for – and win – the contract awarded in response to the very same procurement they helped craft?

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has already been asked to look into this. The NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Office of General Counsel (OGC) are also looking into this as are several congressional offices.  

So here’s the picture to contemplate: While the International Space Station orbits overhead, complete after two decades and ready for us to use it, we collectively fumble the process of tapping its great potential back on Earth. Lawsuits and investigations by GAO, OIG, OGC and others will inevitably hobble whatever progress CASIS would have otherwise made – just as CASIS  was starting to make visible steps toward getting itself ready to do the important tasks that it has been assigned.

Net result: Lawyers and accountants will kill the usefulness of the International Space Station – for all of us.

Earlier posts on CASIS

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.