Federal prosecutors have opened a criminal probe into whether a senior NASA official improperly told a high-ranking Boeing executive about the status of a lunar-lander contract, spurring the company to revise its bid, the Wall Street Journal reported online Friday, citing people familiar with the investigation.
The Journal said the investigation focuses on communication that occurred early this year outside established contracting channels, including contacts between Doug Loverro, before he resigned as head of NASA’s human-exploration programs in May, and Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s space and launch division.
Loverro informed Chilton that the aerospace giant was about to be eliminated from the competition based on cost and technical evaluations, and within days Boeing submitted a revised proposal, the Journal report said. NASA determined the bid changes came too late to be considered, and three other companies won contracts in April totaling nearly $1 billion.
The Journal said the investigation is in its early stages and it’s not known whether any criminal charges may result. Boeing declined to comment on the investigation, according to the report.