Author Topic: SpaceX gets a boost from House Armed Services Committee 2020 NDAA markup  (Read 165 times)

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Space News by Sandra Erwin — June 10, 2019

There had been speculation that Smith’s mark would direct the Air Force to put the procurement on hold until his concerns were addressed. But the bill does not disrupt the program schedule and only directs some changes to the rules of the competition.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) is proposing legislation for the 2020 defense authorization bill that would put SpaceX and to a lesser extent Blue Origin on a stronger footing to compete in the National Security Space Launch program.

The chairman’s mark will be debated and voted on June 12 when the committee reviews its version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

The bill helps to create “fair and open competition in launch,” Smith said on Monday during a breakfast meeting with reporters.

Smith’s mark includes provisions that specifically target the Air Force’s space launch competition, the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement. The Air Force issued a request for bids on May 3 and proposals are due Aug. 1.

Smith for years has been critical of the Air Force’s space launch program. Most recently he challenged the Air Force’s decision to select two providers in 2020 to split all national security launches from 2022 to 2026. He criticized that strategy as one that favors incumbents and shuts out emerging commercial players that would have to wait five years to get another chance if they don’t win a Phase 2 contract.

The field of competitors includes United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman.

There had been speculation that Smith’s mark would direct the Air Force to put the procurement on hold until his concerns were addressed. But the bill does not disrupt the program schedule and only directs some changes to the rules of the competition.

In a provision that one industry source characterized as a “SpaceX earmark,” the bill creates a $500 million fund for “certification and infrastructure” that would be available to companies that win a Phase 2 procurement contract but were not awarded funds by the Air Force under the Launch Service Agreement (LSA) program.

Last October the Air Force awarded $3.2 billion in LSA contracts to ULA, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman. These are six-year agreements to help pay for the development of rockets and launch facilities required to fly national security missions.

SpaceX was left out presumably because its proposal didn’t satisfy the Air Force’s requirements. The company protested the decision on May 17, filing a complaint in the Court of Federal Claims that argues the Air Force is tilting the scale in favor of SpaceX’s competitors and harming the company by expecting it to finance costly development and infrastructure upgrades required for the Phase 2 competition.

Smith’s provision would give SpaceX access to government funds that it did not win competitively. But in his mind this is the right thing to do in recognition that the government is imposing unique costs on launch providers.

“I think it’s only fair” to give SpaceX $500 million if it wins a Phase 2 contract, said Smith. “I was told the reason ULA got more money is that they had greater needs to meet national security requirements for their new vehicles,” he said. SpaceX has needs as well and “if they win they ought to get the help.”

More: https://spacenews.com/spacex-gets-a-boost-from-house-armed-services-committee-2020-ndaa-markup/
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