A team of contract managers at NASA are working ’round the clock’ to build a tender process for urgent repairs to the International Space Station.
With a critical pump that controls the cooling system failing outside of warranty, finding a contractor that offers value for money has become the agency’s number one priority.
Astronauts on the ISS had hoped to make repairs themselves, but were warned such a move would be considered ‘anti-competitive’.
Lawrence Schultz is heading up the crack team of bid controllers, all of them experienced accountants and some of whom have seen pictures of ‘space’.
“Finding a preferred bidder with a clear equal opportunities policy and a proven track record of fixing Type L54 Version 3 coolant pumps that are in orbit is certainly causing us a few headaches”, said Schultz.
“We’ve heard from a couple of companies with Version 2 experience but they didn’t have the correct emphasis on customer service. And there’s some debate about who should perform the risk assessment.”
Schultz insisted that while making a speedy repair was important it would only make up 45% of the assessment score. “sustainability, social responsibility and a good cycle-to-work scheme are also key competencies”, he said.
The process is still in the preliminary stage but Schultz is confident a contract will be awarded soon. “A firm that runs our onsite crèche is looking pretty promising at the moment. ‘Little Tykes Day Care’ has an excellent customer satisfaction record and an ‘Investors in People’ certificate. All they need to do now is tick the boxes for ‘engineering’ and ‘flying into space’ .”
Meanwhile astronauts on the stricken vessel have spoken of their frustration, but not too loudly in case it affects their own bid. “If they’d just give us the nod we could have this thing patched up within the hour”, said Rick Mastracchio. “But unfortunately, we’ve all left our qualification certificates back on Earth.”
“In space, no-one can here you scream”, Mastracchio added. “Not since Dunkin’ Donuts won the contract to fix the intercom.”