Jeff Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin, has accused NASA of wrongly evaluating its lunar lander proposal. The complaint was followed with a lawsuit, dragging NASA’s moon landing program to a federal court.
The complaint is part of a crusade by the company to win part of the lunar lander contract. The contract was awarded to rival company, Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Blue Origin’s complaint, filed with the US Court of Federal, is described as a challenge to “NASA’s unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals” submitted during the Moon competition.
SpaceX had in April, won the US$2.9 billion Artemis Lunar Lander contract, beating Blue Origin, and defense contractor, Dynetics.
The contract is part of NASA’s plan to send astronauts to the Moon, first time since 1972.
NASA had rejected Blue Origin’s $5.9 billion proposal of its Blue Moon landing system, and approved SpaceX’s $2.9 billion Starship proposal instead. NASA chose to pick just one company for the project instead of going with its initial plan to pick two.
According to reports, the contract involves two lunar landings: one unmanned test landing, and another with humans. Going by federal data, SpaceX has already received $439m from NASA to start its work.
One of Blue Origin’s spokespersons noted that the lawsuit is “an attempt to remedy the flaws in the acquisition process found in NASA’s Human Landing System.“
The spokesperson added that Blue Origin 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.”
NASA said its officials are “currently reviewing details of the case.” NASA also added that “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.”
In an attempt to justify NASA’S choice of SpaceX, NASA’s human spaceflight chief Kathy Lueders wrote in a document:
“After accounting for a contract award to SpaceX, the amount of remaining available funding is so insubstantial that, in my opinion, NASA cannot reasonably ask Blue Origin to lower its price for its Blue Moon proposal. I do not have enough funding to even attempt to negotiate a price from Blue Origin that could potentially enable a contract award.”
Now in court, Blue Origin’s challenge could trigger another pause to SpaceX’s contract and a new lengthy delay to NASA’s race to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024.