Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is suing NASA in federal courtroom over the HLS contract

Billionaire American businessman Jeff Bezos goes for a walk with Blue Origin President and CEO Bob Smith after Bezos flew the company’s maiden flight to the edge of space in the nearby town of Van Horn, Texas on July 20, 2021.

Joe Skipper | Reuters

Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin filed a lawsuit against NASA in federal court, continuing to protest that the agency had wrongly placed a lucrative contract with Elon Musk’s SpaceX earlier this year.

“This bid protest challenges the unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals by NASA,” wrote the lawyers of Blue Origin in their court file.

The protest, filed in the US Federal Court on Monday, is sealed and marks the next step in the company’s attempt to overturn NASA’s decision. A spokesman for Blue Origin confirmed the filing of the lawsuit, adding in a statement to CNBC that it is trying to “correct the flaws in the acquisition process found in NASA’s Human Landing System.”

“We strongly believe that the issues identified in this procurement and their outcomes must be addressed to restore fairness, create competition and ensure a safe return to the moon for America,” said Blue Origin.

In a statement to CNBC, a NASA spokesman said “space agency officials are currently examining the details of the case.”

Blue Origin’s lawsuit comes a few weeks after the U.S. government accountability office dismissed the company’s protest and upheld NASA’s decision.

The GAO ruling supported the space agency’s surprise announcement in April that NASA had awarded SpaceX a lunar lander contract valued at approximately $ 2.9 billion. SpaceX was likely to compete with Blue Origin and Dynetics for two contracts before NASA awarded a single contract due to a lower allocation to the program from Congress.

Blue Origin has not let up in its battle for a contract under NASA’s HLS program, one of the final key elements in the agency’s plan to return US astronauts to the lunar surface. Prior to the April contract award, NASA had awarded nearly $ 1 billion in concept development contracts – SpaceX received $ 135 million, Dynetics received $ 253 million, and Blue Origin received $ 579 million.

The company’s judicial filing comes Monday as Blue Origin stepped up a public relations offensive against NASA using SpaceX’s next-generation spacecraft to land astronauts on the moon. In a series of comparative infographics, Blue Origin highlighted the “unprecedented number of technologies, developments and operations never before undertaken for Starship’s landing on the moon”.

Blue Origin released an infographic last week that added that Starship is “a launcher that has never flown into orbit and is still being developed.”

In response to Blue Origin’s infographic, Musk commented on Bezos’ company and its criticism.

“The sad thing is that even if Santa suddenly makes his hardware available for free, the first thing you want to do is cancel it,” Musk wrote in a tweet.

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