Blue Origin sues NASA for awarding a $ 3 billion contract to SpaceX to place the next US boots on the moon • The Register


Updated Blue Origin sued NASA on Friday night, claiming the space agency unfairly awarded its main rival SpaceX a $ 2.94 billion contract to develop the next lunar lander.

This lander will – let’s cross our fingers – part of NASA’s flagship Artemis mission to put the first woman and the next American on the moon. Three teams, including SpaceX and Blue Origin, submitted plans for the spacecraft. Since the contract was awarded to Elon Musk’s SpaceX in April, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has fought tooth and nail to overturn NASA’s decision.

First, Blue Origin filed an official protest with the US Government Accountability Office. Dynetics, the third competitor for the contract, also filed a complaint. Bezos even wrote NASA an open letter offering a $ 2 billion rebate. But Amazon’s supremo has been snubbed, listeners dismissed Blue Origin’s complaints and earlier this month NASA was given the green light to continue working with SpaceX on the lander.

Not wanting to accept defeat, Blue Origin has now decided to take NASA to court to challenge the contract award. The trial was, the last time we checked, sealed.

“Blue Origin has filed a lawsuit with the United States Federal Claims Court in an attempt to remedy flaws in the acquisition process found in NASA’s human landing system,” a company spokesperson said. . The register. “We strongly believe that the problems identified in this procurement and its results must be addressed to restore fairness, create competition and ensure a safe return to the moon for America.”

In Blue Origin’s complaint to the liability office, the aerospace industry argued that it was unfair to award the lander contract to a single supplier at this early stage. The problem was the fact that NASA at one point promised to fund the development of several lander designs and then pick one for the actual mission, when they ultimately decided to settle for SpaceX.

Kenneth Patton, associate general counsel for watchdog government procurement law, said NASA did not violate government procurement law or regulations in its win-win approach. Even though NASA wanted to reward several companies, it could not afford to do so with its current budget anyway.

The 76-page report from the accountability office said NASA only had $ 345 million for this 2021 fiscal year as the first installment to kick off the Artemis Human Landing System project. NASA chose SpaceX because it was the cheapest option of the three proposals. The space agency didn’t have much of a choice, Patton argued.


NASA’s assessment of the three lander proposals … Source: US Government Accountability Office

Yet Blue Origin isn’t giving up all those billions and the chance to build the space ferry to take America’s next future crew of astronauts to the surface of the moon. An infographic on its website claimed SpaceX’s Starship rocket was too complicated and risky to pilot the future lunar lander.


Why NASA apparently shouldn’t choose SpaceX… Source: Blue Origin

Elon Musk hit back at the trial, Tweeter: “If lobbying and lawyers could put you in orbit, Bezos would be on Pluto right now. “

A NASA spokesperson was not available for immediate comment. Just so no one will forget, Amazon went to court because Microsoft won the Pentagon’s $ 10 billion JEDI cloud deal… and Microsoft protested Amazon by winning an IT deal with the NSA. ®

Updated to add

The US space agency has responded to us regarding Friday’s trial.

“NASA has been advised that Blue Origin has filed a claim with the United States Federal Claims Court following the dismissal of the protests filed with the United States Government Accountability Office regarding NASA’s selection for the system. ‘Human Landing Option A. NASA officials are currently reviewing the details of the case,’ a spokesperson said The register.

“NASA is committed to the Artemis program and to maintaining the nation’s global leadership in space exploration. Together with our partners, we will go to and stay on the Moon to enable scientific research, develop new technologies and to create well-paying jobs for the greater good and with a view to sending astronauts to Mars.

“As soon as possible, the agency will provide an update on the way forward to return to the Moon as quickly and safely as possible under Artemis.”

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