Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space company, has filed a lawsuit against NASA, claiming a $2.9 billion lunar lander contract was unfairly awarded to rival Elon Musk’s SpaceX earlier this year.
The suit, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims on Monday, is sealed, but according to another filing, it ‘challenges NASA´s unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals.’
Blue Origin was originally in competition with SpaceX and a third firm called Dynetics for what was expected to be two NASA contracts.
After Congress trimmed the space agency’s budget, NASA announced in April 2021 that SpaceX’s Human Landing System (HLS) would be the sole contractor.
That month, Blue Origin and Alabama-based Dynetics filed a 50-page protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a congressional watchdog.
In response, Elon Musk rolled his fellow multibillionaire Bezos, tweeting he ‘can’t get it up (to orbit).’
In July, the GAO rejected Blue Origin and Dynetics’ protest, finding ‘NASA did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award,’ striking down Blue Origin’s main argument.
Pictured: Billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin.The space company has filed suit against NASA in the US Court of Federal Claims for awarding Elon Musk’s SpaceX the sole contract for a lunar lander for the upcoming Artemis mission
‘The announcement reserved the right to make multiple awards, a single award, or no award at all,’ GAO stated in a press release.
‘In reaching its award decision, NASA concluded that it only had sufficient funding for one contract award.’
Blue Origin has been working on its moon landing system, known as Blue Moon, since 2017.
In 2019, Bezos unveiled a rendering of Blue Moon during a Blue Origin event in Washington, DC.
Though Blue Origin claims NASA had indicated it would award several contracts, in April gave Elon Musk (pictured) and his Space X the lone $2.91 billion contract to develop a lunar lander
After NASA announced Space X would be the sole contractor, Elon Musk tweeted that rival Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin ‘can’t get it up (to orbit)’
The same month the GAO rejected the protest, Bezos became the first billionaire in space, joining his brother, Mark, 82-year-old space pioneer Wally Funk, and an 18-year-old student aboard the New Shepard rocket ship.
After the GAO decision, a Blue Origin spokesperson told DailyMail.com hat the company stood firm ‘in our belief that there were fundamental issues with NASA’s decision, but the GAO wasn’t able to address them due to their limited jurisdiction.’
They added Blue Origin would ‘continue to advocate for two immediate providers, as we believe it is the right solution,’ but did not suggest outright legal action.
‘The Human Landing System [HLS] program needs to have competition now instead of later, the rep said, ‘that’s the best solution for NASA and the best solution for our country.’
An illustration of the SpaceX Starship human lander design that will carry the first NASA astronauts to the surface of the Moon under the Artemis program in 2024
Days after Blue Origin and Dynetics filed their protest, NASA told SpaceX to halt building the HLM until the GAO made its ruling.
The July decision meant Musk could restart work on the lander, part of the larger project to land the first woman and next man on the moon.
Musk responded to the ruling by posting ‘GAO’ with the ‘strong arm’ emoji on Twitter.
NASA initially made the announcement about the lunar lander contracts in April 2020, awarding Blue Origin $579 million, Dynetics team $253 million and SpaceX $135 million to develop a model for a lander.
According to Blue Origin, the space agency was expected to name two winning teams this year, with both companies receiving lucrative contracts to turn their designs into working spacecrafts.
In July, Musk also responded to the General Accounting Office’s rejection of a protest filed by Blue Origin and Dynetics by tweeting the strong arm emoji and ‘GAO’
However, on April 16, 2021, NASA announced SpaceX was going to be the sole company to construct a lunar lander, with a $2.91 billion contract that was reportedly much lower than Blue Origin’s $5.99 billion bid.
A rendering of Blue Moon, the lunar landing vehicle Blue Horizon intended to develop for NASA
‘NASA had indicated an overriding intention to make two awards but due to perceived shortfalls in currently available and anticipated future budget appropriations, it made only the award to SpaceX, eliminating HLS competition, and effectively locking down immediate and future lunar landing system development and launch and lunar landing opportunities,’ lawyers for Blue Origin told AL.com.
On April 16, SpaceX revealed plans for its lander, which will include the company’s tested Raptor engines, along with new tech pulling inspiration from the Falcon and Dragon vehicles’ designs.
The lander will feature a spacious cabin and two airlocks for astronaut moonwalks.
‘The Starship architecture is intended to evolve to a fully reusable launch and landing system designed for travel to the Moon, Mars, and other destinations,’ NASA shared in the April announcement.
In July, Blue Origin claimed NASA had ‘moved the goalposts at the last minute’ and, ‘in NASA’s own words… made a ‘high risk’ selection.’
Blue Origin has questioned whether SpaceX is up to the challenge of developing the ‘unprecedented number of technologies, developments, and operations that have never been done before ‘ in order for Starship to land on the Moon’
‘Their decision eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base, and not only delays, but also endangers America’s return to the Moon,’ the company added.
Since then Blue Origin has been taking potshots at Space X on social media, posting several infographics underscoring the ‘unprecedented number of technologies, developments, and operations that have never been done before for Starship to land on the Moon.’
The suit, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims on Monday, is sealed, but according to another filing it ‘challenges NASA´s unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals’
Last week, it released an infographic that added that Starship is ‘a launch vehicle that has never flown to orbit and is still being designed,’
Space X has launched more than 100 successful orbital launches with its Falcon 9 rockets, CNBC reported, while Bezos’ company has yet to reach orbit.
In response to the infographic Musk tweeted, ‘The sad thing is that even if Santa Claus suddenly made their hardware real for free, the first thing you’d want to do is cancel it.’
NASA will land the first woman and next man on the moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis mission
Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the moon in Greek mythology.
NASA has chosen her to personify its path back to the moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2024 – including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an uncrewed flight that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of about a three-week mission.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars. This graphic explains the various stages of the mission
Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps of human exploration into deep space where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars.
The will take crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans aboard.
The SLS rocket will from an initial configuration capable of sending more than 26 metric tons to the moon, to a final configuration that can send at least 45 metric tons.
Together, Orion, SLS and the ground systems at Kennedy will be able to meet the most challenging crew and cargo mission needs in deep space.
Eventually NASA seeks to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes this colony will uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advancements and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.