Aerospace company Blue Origin sued the US government last Friday. The lawsuit concerns the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s recent decision to award a $2.9 billion lunar lander contract to rival company SpaceX.
After initially promising to issue multiple contracts to spur development using competing companies, NASA instead chose SpaceX to proceed with a $2.9 billion contract. It cited costs as a primary consideration, as Congress did not approve the budget NASA requested for its space programs.
Blue Origin Wants To Remedy Flaws In NASA’s Acquisition Process
Blue Origin said that its lawsuit is “an attempt to remedy the flaws in the acquisition process” for NASA’s Human Landing System. The federal space agency sought proposals from private companies for a spacecraft that can transport astronauts to the moon and back.
Its Artemis program aims to revive the country’s lunar mission, which ended in 1972. As a result, NASA awarded SpaceX to build a lunar spacecraft for launch in 2024.
Details on specific elements of the actual lawsuit remain currently sealed. However, the courts require NASA to file a response to the challenge by October 12.
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Blue Origin wants NAS Ato to go back to its word of awarding the project to at least two companies instead of just one. In addition, Blue Origin pointed out that NASA gave SpaceX an unfair advantage by allowing it to revise its pricing.
In contrast, Blue Origin offered to cover up to $2 billion in NASA costs if they won the lunar landing contract instead. “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,” the suit stated.
Blue Origin Attempts to Protest NASA Award
Previous attempts to protest NASA’s decision to go with one contractor met resistance from other federal agencies. Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sided with NASA on their decision for a single provider. The GAO said it “denied the protest arguments that NASA acted improperly in making a single award to SpaceX.”
Meanwhile, NASA officials are ready to continue the program. “NASA officials are currently reviewing details of the case.
With our partners, we will go to the Moon and stay to enable science investigations, develop new technology, and create high-paying jobs for the greater good and in preparation to send astronauts to Mars,” the space agency said.
It 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.”
NASA Should Have Issued Multiple Awards Instead of Single
Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics argued that NASA should have issued multiple awards instead of just one. The aerospace company, founded by former Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, insisted there were “fundamental issues” with NASA’s decision and that GAO was not able to address them “due to their limited jurisdiction.”
Blue Origin said it will insist on NASA to go for two immediate providers. The company strongly believes it is the right solution for its lunar program. Meanwhile, SpaceX, headed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, did not comment on the lawsuit.
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Do you agree with Blue Origin in insisting that NASA award multiple contracts to space companies instead of just one? What advantage will multiple companies have over a single contractor?
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