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NASA kills contract for new space suit

August 16, 2008|From the Associated Press

HARTFORD, CONN. — NASA said Friday that it terminated its contract with a Houston company selected in June to supply the space agency's next-generation space suit.

NASA said it determined that an unspecified compliance issue required it to halt its contract with Oceaneering International Inc., best known for providing deep-water services and products to the oil and gas industry.

The agency said its procurement decision would be reconsidered, offering no reason except that the decision was "for the convenience of the government."

The three-phase, $745-million contract called for 109 suits, 24 of which would be lunar suits.

The contract award was protested last month by Exploration Systems & Technology, a joint venture between Hamilton Sundstrand and ILC Dover, two companies that have supplied space suits and components since the 1960s. Exploration Systems said it did not believe it received adequate information from NASA about why its bid did not win.

In a statement Friday, Exploration Systems said it was concerned that revisions to the proposal may not correct the "significant errors and deficiencies in the procurement we have protested thus far."

Spokesman Daniel Coulom said Exploration Systems was told that NASA would address only cost accounting issues. Exploration Systems instead wants "corrective action" that it said would reduce the risk of additional challenges, promote competition and efficiency in the contracting process.

The space suit, called an EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) suit by NASA, is being developed to protect astronauts during voyages to the international space station and when astronauts return to the moon, for which the agency has set a target of 2020.

The challenge to a federal contract is the second in recent months for a United Technologies subsidiary.

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