International Space Station Propulsion Module Procurement Process

GAO-01-576R: Apr 26, 2001

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began the Space Station Program in 1984 to provide a permanent human presence in an orbiting laboratory in space. Russia joined the program in 1993 and agreed to provide space assets, including the propulsion capability. Because of concerns about Russian delays, however, NASA began a parallel, U.S.-funded effort in December 1998 to design and build a propulsion module to ensure the required attitude control and re-boost capability. Based on technical, schedule, and management considerations, NASA did not consider conducting a competitive procurement for a propulsion module. Rather, NASA modified its existing contract with the space station prime contractor, Boeing Corporation, to obtain this capability without competition. The modification of NASA's contract with Boeing was proper. The changes clause of the prime contract allowed NASA to modify the contract to add additional requirements, provided they were "within the scope" of the contract. NASA reasonably concluded that the propulsion module requirement was within the scope of Boeing's prime contract, which assigned Boeing the responsibility to design, develop, and deliver the U.S. segment of the space station.