NASA drops Boeing from race for $3.5 billion cargo contract

It's been a rough couple of months for Boeing ...

Last month, Boeing was beat out by Northrop Grumman for a $55 billion award to build America's next generation of long-distance bombers for the US Air Force.

And now, ​Boeing's bid to build a cargo version ​of their CST-100 Starliner capsule, a system that could deliver astronauts to the International Space Station as early as 2017, was denied.

The proposal was part of a $3.5 billion competition to send cargo re-supply missions to the ISS.

There was no clear explanation as to why NASA drops Boeing, but according to Kelly Kaplan, a company spokeswoman:

We received some information as part of the letter we received from NASA this morning but until we get the debrief we can't say much.

While some space experts and analysts had expected the announcement this week, NASA's website stated they planned to announce the award no later than January 30.

The capsule that Boeing had proposed to send to the ISS was a variation on its CST-100 Starliner, Kaplan said. As Kaplan commented:

It would have been the same spacecraft but just a cargo variant.

Boeing had been in competition with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, who each got a share of NASA's first round of $3.6 billion contracts to send cargo to the ISS,  Both companies are still in the running for the second round of funding under a program called Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2), but, since NASA drops Boeing, there is only one other company that may still get a piece of the pie.

According to the Florida Today newspaper, which first broke the news on Thursday of Boeing's loss, that company is Sierra Nevada Corporation. As the paper reported:

NASA is continuing CRS2 discussions with the company as one of the offerors in the competitive range.

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