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NASA Pulls Boston University Contract

July 12, 2003

BOSTON (AP) _ Boston University has lost an $89 million contract with NASA to build a special satellite after the space agency concluded the school could not deliver what it had promised.

``It’s probably unprecedented,″ Tim Gehringer, NASA’s mission manager for the project, told The Boston Globe. ``The bottom line is that (BU’s satellite) couldn’t do the science it promised to do.″

The satellite project, called the Explorer for Spectroscopy and Photometry of the Intergalactic Medium’s Diffuse Radiation, will study a web of hot gases spread through the universe. It was supposed to launch in 2005.

According to Gehringer, an independent review board determined that BU’s instruments were less sensitive than its bid had indicated. However, the university’s scientists are not accused of deliberately misleading NASA.

``It’s an extremely subtle problem, and we accept it as a human error anybody could make,″ Gehringer said.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration suspended the project in May and has again put it out to bid. NASA will pay BU about $8 million that it has already spent on the project, Gehringer said.

About three dozen other groups, including BU, have submitted proposals, Gehringer said. The winning bid will be selected next spring or summer.

Supriya Chakrabarti, director of BU’s Center for Space Physics, told the Globe he disagreed with NASA’s assessment and that the university’s latest proposal will address any concerns. Chakrabarti did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Friday.

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