Things are getting heated between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, it's the Old Wild West of moguls dueling in the new Space Race. Their companies are competing to return NASA astronauts to the Moon and also build broadband satellite constellations to provide high-speed internet globally.
Bezos’ resigned from his CEO position at Amazon to focus on his aerospace company, Blue Origin. Ever since his resignation, he appears to be fighting against SpaceX. “Turns out Besos [sic] retired in order to pursue a full-time job filing lawsuits against SpaceX …” Musk said via Twitter, in response to a news story that reports Bezos' Amazon company told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “dismiss” a new proposal submitted by SpaceX’s Starlink division.
SpaceX operates the Starlink broadband constellation in low Earth orbit with roughly 1,740 internet-beaming satellites that already beam beta internet service to 100,000 customers across 14 countries. Bezos’ Amazon company has plans to deploy the Project Kuiper broadband constellation and has not launched any satellites yet.
Turns out Besos retired in order to pursue a full-time job filing lawsuits against SpaceX …— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 27, 2021
The letter Amazon Project Kuiper representatives submitted to the FCC is not a formal lawsuit but rather a letter protesting SpaceX Starlink proposals (Read more: Jeff Bezos' Amazon Project Kuiper Tells FCC To 'Dismiss' SpaceX’s Starlink Gen2 System Plans). The protest does come after Blue Origin did file a formal lawsuit against NASA for selecting SpaceX as the sole winner of a $2.9 billion Human Landing System (HLS) contract. Under the HLS contract, SpaceX will develop a lunar-optimized Starship to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024 as part of NASA's Artemis program. Blue Origin was also competing for this contract. Bezos could not accept losing, so he filed protests against NASA claiming the selection process was ‘unfair’.
The independent watchdog agency, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), rejected the HLS contract protests stating that “NASA did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award.” The agency was only able to cover costs for the development of a single lunar lander and decided to select what it deemed as the best option.
After GAO’s announcement, Bezos wrote an open-letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, in which he requested a chance to compete with SpaceX for the HLS contract again. “[…] Instead of this single source approach, NASA should embrace its original strategy of competition,” he wrote in the lengthy letter. His letter did not receive an official public response from NASA officials, so Bezos decided to escalate the fight and filed a lawsuit against NASA with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims on August 13. “This bid protest challenges NASA's unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals,” Blue Origin's lawyers wrote in its federal court filing. The federal lawsuit caused NASA to temporarily pause work with SpaceX on the HLS contract until November. The ‘duel’ (fight) caused Blue Origin’s HLS Lunar Lander Lead Engineer Nitin Arora to resign and now he works at SpaceX. Read more: Blue Origin Lunar Lander Lead Engineer Resigns & Joins SpaceX Amid Jeff Bezos’ NASA HLS Contract Lawsuit.