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Runner-up in the month-long NASA lander competition plans to try again

SANTA FE, N.M – The company that failed to win a NASA contract last month for commercial cargo delivery services said it would try again in the future because it continued to develop its lunar landers.

NASA awarded a contract to nine companies on November 29 for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, in which NASA will buy cargo space on landers the companies have developed to transport the experiment to the surface of the moon. Delivery is unlimited, contract quantities are unlimited, with a combined maximum value of $ 2.6 billion over 10 years, do not guarantee that the company will receive anything other than the amount of tokens but allows them to compete for future assignments.

At the time of the announcement, NASA provided some additional details about the competition, including the total number of companies submitting proposals. The source selection statement, released by NASA on December 20, revealed that all but one of the companies that submitted the proposal accepted the contract.

In addition to the nine companies that received CLPS awards – Astrobotic, Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express and Orbit Beyond – tenth company, Crow Industries, submitting proposals terminated by the agency cannot be accepted.

NASA assessed CLPS proposals in five categories, including the company's ability to carry out moon landing missions with at least 10 kilograms of cargo by the end of 2021, understanding regulatory issues, launch plans, spacecraft designs and plans to integrate NASA payloads. The nine winning companies are rated "Acceptable" in each of the five categories.

Crow Industries, however, received a rating of "Unacceptable" in two categories, its ability to reach the moon by the end of 2021 and the design of spacecraft. He received a "Potentially Received" score in the third category, the payload processing procedure.

NASA doubts that the company will be able to develop its landing on the proposed schedule. "The proposed Crow development schedule is not credible and does not adequately address or identify the paths or milestones associated with engine system development," the source evaluation board concluded in a statement regarding the company's "Unacceptable" schedule score.

The Board also concluded that "Crow's proposed mass budget is not credible for the mass of its payload and that its mass estimate for its main engine is also not credible" in its explanation of the "Unacceptable" score for spacecraft design.

"Acceptable" scores for load processing come from a lack of information in several fields, such as load integration and physical security. These problems can be overcome with additional information, the council concluded.

Dennis Andrucyk, associate deputy administrator at NASA's Science Mission Directorate and the source selection authority for CLPS, received the score after what he described in the statement was "enthusiastic discussion" with the council. "In view of the reasons above, I found that Crow's proposal is currently not fulfilling the requirements for granting CLPS basic contracts and therefore did not choose Crow for awards," he concluded.

He left the door open, so that Crow competed in the future. The CLPS program, he said, "anticipates that the Agency can make additional awards on a regular basis through the & # 39; on-ramp & # 39; process." He wrote that "it is entirely conceivable" that Crow could overcome its problems "in a way that could make Crows eligible for future CLPS basic contracts."

Crow Industries also hopes to compete again for the CLPS contract. Ellyn Heald, director of communications for Arizona-based startups, said on December 21 that the company was filing a B1 lander, the first in the company's Bifröst spacecraft series.

"As stated in the source selection statement, while NASA discovered many aspects of our attractive offerings, our Bifröst landing architecture is still in its early stages of development, and their primary attention is related to the time needed to provide innovative designs for our main engines," Heald said .

The company has not revealed much technical details about the Bifröst landing program, including the engine. The company has not disclosed financial details either, although NASA's source selection statement notes that Crow has an "adequate financial plan." Crow did publish a video in October showing B1 landers landed on the moon. Explorers deploy two small explorers and use robotic arms to collect lunar samples.

"Although not chosen for this CLPS opportunity, we are confident that the area of ​​improvement that NASA has designated will be completed soon," Heald said, with plans to offer landing services to government and commercial customers. "We hope to be able to improve our system and join selected CLPS offerers through the next online opportunity in two years."

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