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Boeing CST-100 Starliner
An artist’s conception shows Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner space taxi in orbit. (Credit: Boeing)

Boeing says it’s out of the running for NASA’s next contract to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, but it’ll still be sending up cargo as well as astronauts on its CST-100 Starliner spaceship under the terms of different deal.

The update came as NASA said that its selection of contractors for the second round of commercial resupply services for the space station, previously scheduled to be announced today, would have to wait.

“CRS2 is a complex procurement,” NASA said in an emailed statement. “The anticipated award date has been revised to no later than January 30, 2016, to allow time to complete a thorough proposal evaluation and selection. Since the agency is in the process of evaluating proposals, we are in a procurement communications blackout. For that reason, NASA cannot answer questions about this procurement at this time.”

The CRS2 contracts are likely to be worth billions of dollars, and would cover a period running from 2018 to 2024.

SpaceX and Orbital ATK have been shipping cargo into orbit since 2012, under contracts with a combined price tag of totaling more than $3.5 billion. Both those companies are currently sidelined due to rocket failures, but they expect to return to service within months and help resupply the space station into the year 2018. Their bids for CRS2 contracts are still active.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Sierra Nevada Corp. said they also submitted proposals for CRS2. Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Lockheed Martin was eliminated from consideration. Today, Sierra Nevada Corp. spokeswoman Krystal Scordo told Space Policy Online that her company was still in. But NASA told Boeing in a letter received today that it was no longer “in the running,” spokeswoman Kelly Kaplan told GeekWire in an email.

Boeing is developing the Starliner capsule to carry astronauts under a separate $4.2 billion contract with NASA. SpaceX has a similar contract for commercial crew, worth $2.6 billion. Those crew-capable spaceships are due to start flying to the space station as early as 2017. Kaplan told GeekWire in an email that Boeing’s elimination from the CRS2 competition won’t affect the company’s work on the commercial crew contract.

“Also, our current CST-100 Starliner crew capsule is configured to be flexible, so if NASA ever wanted to, we could remove the seats and configure for an all-cargo mission with that capsule,” Kaplan said. “Currently, as part of our TCap [transportation capability] contract, NASA will have us fly four NASA astronauts plus cargo on our service missions.”

Hat tip to Marcia Smith @SpcPlcyOnline

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