Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin is fighting NASA’s decision to award SpaceX $2.9 billion to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024. NASA’s Human Landing System program, which funded development of three rival lunar lander prototypes (including Blue Origin’s), was expected to pick two of those landers in April. But NASA opted for just one — SpaceX’s Starship — because of short funding from Congress.
Blue Origin’s 175-page protest, filed with the Government Accountability Office less than two weeks after SpaceX won the contract, accuses NASA of misjudging several parts of its proposal for Blue Moon, the lunar lander it’s developing with a “National Team” of established space and defense contractors: Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Draper.
NASA announced its decision to pick SpaceX’s Starship rocket system on April 16th, citing the spacecraft’s proposed cost and cargo capacity as key reasons for beating Blue Origin and Dynetics, the third company bidding for the contract. Under the contract, NASA said, Starship will fly two demonstration missions — one uncrewed test mission to the lunar surface, and another mission carrying humans around 2024.
“NASA has executed a flawed acquisition for the Human Landing System program and moved the goalposts at the last minute,” Blue Origin said in a statement released on Monday, calling NASA’s decision “high risk.”
“Their decision eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base, and not only delays, but also endangers America’s return to the Moon. Because of that, we’ve filed a protest with the GAO,” the statement read.
The lunar lander contract is the centerpiece of NASA’s Artemis program, the agency’s effort to put the first astronauts since Apollo back on the Moon and use the lunar surface as a springboard for future missions to Mars.