Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space company, protested NASA’s decision to award SpaceX a $ 2.9 billion contract to send humans to the Moon. SpaceX itself is a company owned by Elon Musk.
NASA’s Human Landing System program is funding the development of three prototypes of SpaceX’s, Blue Origin and Dynetics lander spacecraft for lunar missions. NASA was supposed to choose two of the three spacecraft, but decided to only choose SpaceX’s Starship because the funds were cut by the United States Congress.
Blue Origin also protested to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) just two weeks after SpaceX won a NASA contract. In the 175-page document, Blue Origin accuses NASA of misjudging parts of its proposal for the Blue Moon, a lander they developed with Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Draper.
“NASA has made a flawed acquisition of the Human Landing System program and changed its criteria at the last minute,” said Blue Origin in its official statement, as quoted by The Verge, Wednesday (28/4/2021).
“Their decision eliminates opportunities for competition, narrows the supply base significantly, and not only delays, but also jeopardizes America’s return to the Moon. Because of this, we have protested with GAO,” he continued.
In protest, Blue Origin claimed NASA did not give it a chance to revise their proposal after learning about the funding cuts from the US Congress.
They also claim NASA unfairly prefers SpaceX and ignores the various technical challenges facing Starship, including its self-refueling rocket system in an unproven orbit.
Blue Origin then asked GAO to ask NASA to withdraw the contract it had awarded SpaceX, republish the competition with new captions reflecting underfunding, and hold discussions with all bidders about the new process.
NASA has not yet commented on the Blue Origin protests. Meanwhile Elon Musk immediately quipped Blue Origin, which had never launched a spacecraft into orbit.
SCOOP: Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin files a protest against NASA's awarding of the lunar lander contract to Elon Musk's SpaceX. https://t.co/8YV2tcbWe5
— Kenneth Chang (@kchangnyt) April 26, 2021
NASA announced its decision to select SpaceX’s Starship rocket system on April 16. The reason SpaceX was chosen was the proposed cost and the cargo capacity it offered.
Under this contract, the Starship rocket will fly two demonstration missions to the Moon as part of the Artemis program. The first flight will be carried out unmanned, while the second will carry astronauts and is slated to launch in 2024.