Jeff Bezos’ space exploration company, Blue Origin, has decided to challenge NASA’s decision to award the $2.9 billion Artemis contract to SpaceX.
The move to contest NASA’s decision continues the years-long battle between rocket companies owned by the world’s two richest men: Jeff Bezos, who founded Blue Origin, and Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX.
The dispute surrounds NASA’S Artemis Lunar Program, which was originally aimed to have two private-sector companies compete to build the spacecraft that will take astronauts to the surface of the moon.
However, NASA made the surprise decision to move forward with SpaceX as the sole contractor for the project, citing costs as a primary reason for the decision.
Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin, told The Times in an interview that NASA’s decision was flawed because it misjudged advantages of Blue Origin’s proposal, and downplayed technical challenges in SpaceX’s.
Elon Musk wasted no time to respond to Blue Origin’s move by posting a tweet.
Alabama-based company, Dynetics, which also made a bid for the contract, is also also protested NASA’s decision.
Both Blue Origin and Dynetics argued in their complaints that NASA did not properly evaluated their bids, pressing the space agency to reconsider.
The government has until August 4, 2021 to rule on whether the protests have merit..
While such rivalry us not uncommon, Blue Origin and SpaceX’s Musk have been particularly vocal about their rivalry.
NASA has however, insisted that it has made a ‘high risk’ selection.
In a statement by Blue Origin said that “Their (NASA) 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.”
In its proposal, Blue Origin proposed working as a “National Team” for the HLS program alongside frequent government contractors such as Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin to design a lunar lander specifically to service the space station, called Gateway, that NASA plans to put in orbit around the moon.
Dynetics also came in with a similar proposal.
SpaceX, however, proposed using its Starship, a gargantuan spaceship and rocket system that is currently in the early stages of development in South Texas.
SpaceX’s primary goal for Starship is to take humans to Mars, but the company proposed using a modified version to service NASA’s Artemis moon program.