Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Ares 1 - How Boeing won

Boeing won NASA's ~$1B competition to build the Ares I upper stage, which will boost the Orion capsule into orbit, based on price. The ATK/LockMart bid scored higher in both the technical and managerial categories.
COMMENT: "Technically acceptable, lowest cost" - it's hard to picture this being a good idea for something this complex and this critical. I'm trying in vain to think of a case in history where a complex system contractor chosen on this basis turned out to be the right choice in the long run. Either the price will go up and negate the savings (remember the Advanced EHF National Team approach? The Space Shuttle?) and/or the contractor will be temped to cut corners and say "that's good enough." I'm not impugning anyone at Boeing, but the record on selecting a contractor based on price over one with superior technical and managerial scores is not reassuring. NASA may well have made the wrong call. Sure, they are in a tight budget situation, but for lofting a manned spacecraft, you either buy the solution you think is technically best and push Congress for enough money or you find you can't afford that solution and you give it up.

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