U.S. Justice Dept opens probe into ex-NASA official, Boeing over space contract: sources

WASHINGTON/SEATTLE, Aug 14 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal probe into whether NASA’s former head of human spaceflight gave Boeing Co improper guidance during a lucrative lunar-lander contract competition, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The Justice Department has sent subpoenas to NASA, Boeing and Doug Loverro, who led the space agency’s marquee space travel program until he resigned in May, as part of a grand-jury investigation into the possible violation of federal procurement laws, the sources said.

In the probe, opened in June, prosecutors are focusing on communication between Loverro and Boeing space executive Jim Chilton in late January, during a blackout period for the Human Lunar Landing system competition, one of the sources said.

Representatives for Boeing and Loverro declined to comment. NASA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The probe was earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal. (Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle)