Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin spaceflight company sued NASA over Elon Musk’s decision to award a $2.9 billion moon landing contract to SpaceX.
Former Amazon chief Bezos said the deal had “fundamental problems”, calling it unfair.
The controversy arose after a decision by NASA in April to award the deal to one company instead of two, as expected, due to a lack of funds.
NASA has yet to comment on the lawsuit, but it has the backing of a federal watchdog.
Blue Origin said in a court filing Friday that two agencies are still needed to build a landing system that will take astronauts to the lunar surface in early 2024.
It also accused NASA of “unlawfully and incorrectly evaluating” its proposals during the project’s bidding processes.
“We believe that issues related to the tender and its outcome must be addressed to restore fairness, create competition, and ensure the safe return of flights from the US to the Moon.”
While awarding the rights to the Moon landing contracts, NASA’s head of human exploration, Kathy Laiders, acknowledged that the space agency’s current budget prevents it from choosing the two companies. This happened after Congress awarded him only $850 million out of the total $3.3 billion requested for the project.
NASA also cited SpaceX’s track record of orbital missions as one of the reasons for awarding the contract. Cost is also believed to have played a big role, as SpaceX’s bid was much lower than that of Blue Origin.
In July, Bezos offered to renegotiate the contract to cover up to $2 billion in NASA costs, but his offer was turned down.
Meanwhile, the Government Oversight Office (GIO) dismissed a complaint by Blue Origin and defense firm Dentech, saying awarding contracts to just one company was not “unfair practice”.
NASA must file a response to the lawsuit by October 12. While SpaceX has yet to comment on the lawsuit.
NASA hopes to return manned flights to the Moon for the first time since 1972 through the Artemis program.
In April, Luders said, “This decisive step puts humanity on the path of sustainable exploration of the Moon and keeps our eye on distant missions into the Solar System, including Mars.”
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