Blue Origin's Launch Pad Protest Denied by the GAO
Image: A view of the shuttle's payload bay wi
July 15, 2011 --
The final space shuttle mission (STS-135) to the International Space Station (ISS) continues. Supplies have been delivered by shuttle Atlantis and the final "shuttle era" spacewalk has been successfully completed. Here are a selection of photographs from the busy ISS since Atlantis docked with the orbital outpost on July 10.
While Atlantis was docked to the space station, a member of the STS-135 crew snapped this picture of some of the islands in the Bahamas, off the coast of the Florida peninsula (right). Miami can be seen toward the top right of the photograph. Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center are located out of shot in the bottom right of the photo.
Welcomed... Fruit? Shortly after docking with the space station, the Atlantis crew (including STS-135 pilot Doug Hurley, left) gave the resident space station crew supplies of fresh food. With a smile, Expedition 28 flight engineer Mike Fossum (right) receives a bag of fruit.
While aboard the space station, the STS-135 crew are working on many tasks during their short stay. STS-135 commander Chris Ferguson (right) can be seen here working with Japanese astronaut and Expedition 28 flight engineer Satoshi Furukawa in the Quest airlock inspecting space suits assigned to NASA astronauts Mike Fossum and Ron Garan prior to the July 12 spacewalk.
Say "Cheese"! During the six and a half hour spacewalk to retrieve a failed ammonia pump module from an external storage platform and install a robotic refueling demonstration apparatus, NASA astronaut Mike Fossum takes a picture while Atlantis is docked behind him. Fossum can be seen restrained on the end of the space station remote manipulator system (Canadarm2).
Mike Fossum points at the camera as he waits at an International Space Station pressurized mating adapter (PMA-2) docked to the space shuttle Atlantis, as the station's robotic system moves the failed ammonia pump module (out of frame) over to the spacewalking astronaut and the shuttle's cargo bay.
Robotic Assistance Mike Fossum, while attached to Canadarm2, holds the Robotics Refueling Mission payload -- one of the main tasks to be carried out during the spacewalk. The failed pump module can be seen with the two-armed robot, Dextre, on left side of the photo.
Shuttle Stowage With his feet secured to Canadarm2, NASA astronaut Ron Garan carries the failed ammonia pump module toward shuttle Atlantis' open payload bay. When Atlantis returns to Earth on July 21, engineers will study the module to see how it failed and how the problem can be avoided in the future.
In addition to installing/removing space station hardware, STS-135 delivered up to a years-worth of supplies. STS-135 mission specialist Sandy Magnus can be seen here floating inside the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module that Atlantis carried to the space station. Magnus is surrounded by the supplies for consumption of the space station residents for the months ahead.
A Picnic, Shuttle Style Seven astronauts -- six from NASA and one from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) -- and three Russian cosmonauts participate in a special meal on the Space Shuttle Atlantis' middeck on July 14. The STS-135 crew consists of NASA astronauts Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim; the Expedition 28 or station crew members are JAXA astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, NASA astronauts Ron Garan and Mike Fossum, and Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko, Alexander Samokutyaev and Sergei Volkov. All photographs can be found in NASA's Human Spaceflight Gallery.
NASA can proceed with its solicitation to dispense with one of the space shuttle’s mothballed launch pads, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has determined.
The GAO denied a protest by Blue Origin, a startup commercial rocket firm owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, that NASA’s solicitation was unfair.
Blue Origin is competing against Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, for Launch Pad 39A, one of two launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida idled by the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011.
NASA had hoped to chose a company to take over pad operations and maintenance beginning Oct. 1, but Blue Origin filed a protest over the solicitation with the GAO in September, delaying the agency’s decision.
“Blue Origin maintains that the agency intends to misapply the terms of the (solicitation) in evaluating proposals and selecting a prospective lessee for the facility. We deny the protest,” the GAO ruled on Thursday.
In a statement, NASA said, “Given today’s GAO ruling, NASA is looking forward in the near future to selecting an industry partner for negotiations to lease and operate LC-39A. Permitting use of this valuable national asset by commercial entities will ensure its continued viability and will allow for its continued use in support of U.S. space activities.”
Blue Origin and SpaceX were not immediately available for comment.
Image: KSC’s Launch Complex 39 is strategically located next to a barge site and a variety of structures, including a Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPF), Press Site, Launch Control Center (LCC), and a crawlerway to the pads. Credit: NASA