NASA released a task order for its lunar commercial lander services program whose termination, without clarification, in January angered many of the companies involved.
NASA removed a 19C task directive for Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program late January 31, according to numerous industry sources. The Task Orders are a call for proposals for CLPS contract firms to submit bids for the assignments specified in the Task Order using their landers.
As per the industry sources, the task order had been released around a week earlier, with a short period for turnaround. NASA gave no justification for removing the task order, and no further contact with the corporations was made.
CLPS businesses have been puzzled by the abrupt withdrawal of the order and a lack of detail. “Nothing frustratingly,” said one executive with a company, talking about the lack of information.
Seamus Tuohy, Senior Director of Draper’s Space Systems, a CLPS organization at the SmallSat Symposium, said in an interview on Feb. 5 that he was not notified why NASA revoked the task order. “With other contractors and us, the NASA CLPS team has been open, so I expect some clarification,” he said. He added that he welcomed NASA’s notice of its proposals to companies after they decided to withdraw the task order to stop drafting their plans to spend money on them.
NASA spokesperson Grey Hautaluoma confirmed in a statement late Feb. 8 that the task order was republished. NASA also thoroughly checked all the criteria in the CLPS Task Order 19C Application for Task Order Proposals and provided additional guidance in the request terminology to ensure that they are accurate and by the procurement strategy of the Agency,’ he added.
The 19C task order contained a smaller lunar landing mission, comparable to the NASA award given in May 2019 for the transport to the lunar surface of a selection of NASA payloads to Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines. Last month, the company said it had decided to proceed with that mission after it had opted to postpone one for the launch of the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover(VIPER). The mission required a wider lander, omitting some of the CLPS firms.
The NASA authorization bill introduced in House of Representatives Jan. 24 included the CLPS program. One part of the bill officially supports the program, provides for the classification of the system and challenges faced by NASA on those projects which are not science-based payloads to be funded by the Directorate in charge of them.