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Blue Origin sues NASA over ‘unlawful’ SpaceX lunar contract

Isabella Richards

Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space company, has now sued the US government over NASA’s “unlawful” decision to award Elon Musk’s SpaceX with a lunar lander contract.

Blue Origin sues NASA over ‘unlawful’ SpaceX lunar contract
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The contract, worth US$2.9 billion, was awarded by NASA in April to see a version of SpaceX’s Human Landing System for the agency's Artemis moon mission.

Blue Origin said the lawsuit, filed on Friday to the US Court of Federal Claims, is "an attempt to remedy the flaws in the acquisition process found in NASA’s Human Landing System".

“We firmly believe that the issues identified in this procurement and its outcomes must be addressed to restore fairness, create competition, and ensure a safe return to the Moon for America,” Blue Origin’s lawyers wrote in its court filing.

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“This bid protest challenges NASA’s unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals.”

In a response statement from NASA’s public affairs, the agency said it has been notified that Blue Origin filed a bid protest with the United States Court of Federal Claims following the denial of protests.

“NASA officials are currently reviewing details of the case,” NASA said.

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

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In July, Jeff Bezos reportedly offered to cover up to US$2 billion in costs in a bid to get NASA to renege on its contract with SpaceX and instead award it to Blue Origin.

SpaceX was chosen due to budgetary constraints and Musk’s proven successful track record in orbital missions, according to NASA.

NASA also claimed SpaceX’s bid was the lowest by some distance, so SpaceX ultimately won out.

SpaceX’s development under the contract was put on pause just weeks after the contract was announced, after Blue Origin filed a protest with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Blue Origin claimed NASA unfairly “moved the goalposts at the last minute”, with its budget concerns, that ultimately made SpaceX the obvious choice.

Billionaire Bezos said earlier he believed there were “fundamental issues” with NASA’s decision, and that GAO could not address them because of “limited jurisdiction”.

Both Blue Origin and SpaceX fought for the spot, and defence information technology company Dynetics said NASA was supposed to make multiple awards, not just one.

On 30 July, the GAO said, “In denying the protests, GAO first concluded that NASA did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award.”

Blue Origin said it would continue to push for a second spot in the mission.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX did not respond immediately to comment.

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