Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin spaceflight company sued NASA over the decision to award it a $2.9 billion moon landing contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Bezos, the former head of Amazon, said there were “fundamental problems” in the deal, calling it unfair.
The dispute arose after a decision by NASA in April to hand the deal over to one company, rather than two, as had been expected, due to a lack of funding.
NASA has not yet commented on the lawsuit, but it has the support of a federal watchdog.
Blue Origin said, in a court filing Friday, that two agencies are still needed to build a landing system that will transport astronauts to the lunar surface in early 2024.
It also accused NASA of conducting an “unlawful and incorrect evaluation” of its proposals during the project’s bidding procedures.
“We believe that issues related to the tender and its outcome must be addressed to restore fairness, create competition, and ensure the safe return of flights to the moon from America,” she added.
While awarding the rights to the moon landing contracts, NASA’s chief of human exploration, Kathy Lueders, acknowledged that the space agency’s current budget prevents it from choosing two companies. This came after Congress awarded her just $850 million of the total $3.3 billion it requested for the project.
NASA also cited SpaceX’s track record of orbital missions as one of the reasons for awarding contracts. Cost is also believed to have played a big role, as SpaceX’s bid was much lower than Blue Origin’s.
In July, Bezos offered to cover up to $2 billion in NASA costs in order to reconsider the contract, but his offer was turned down.
Meanwhile, the Government Oversight Office (GIO) rejected a complaint by Blue Origin and defense firm Dentech, saying that awarding the contract to just one company was not “improper conduct”.
NASA must file a response to the lawsuit by October 12. While SpaceX has not yet commented on the lawsuit.
NASA hopes, through the Artemis program, to return human flights to the moon for the first time since 1972.
In April, Luders said, “This decisive step puts humanity on a path of sustainable exploration of the Moon and keeps our eyes on distant missions in the Solar System, including Mars.”
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