Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin Loses Lawsuit Against NASA, SpaceX Remains Sole Winner Of Astronaut Lunar Lander Development Contract

Evelyn Arevalo by Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo November 04, 2021

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin Loses Lawsuit Against NASA, SpaceX Remains Sole Winner Of Astronaut Lunar Lander Development Contract

Blue Origin, the aerospace company founded by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, filed a lawsuit against NASA over a contract to develop a Human Landing System (HLS) to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024 under the Artemis program. In April, NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion HLS contract to develop a lunar-optimized Starship. 

Blue Origin's 'The National Team', which includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper, submitted a lunar lander proposal, requesting $5.9 billion to develop it. Dynetics also filed a proposal, requesting $9 billion. The agency opted to only select one proposal due to budget constraints. 

After losing the HLS contract, Blue Origin filed a lawsuit against NASA for only selecting one company. The lawsuit came after Blue Origin filed a protest against NASA claiming the selection process was “unfair” and requested the independent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the case. GAO investigated and rejected the HLS contract protest on July 30, stating that NASA did not break any law for selecting only one company to develop the HLS lunar lander.  

Blue Origin escalated the dispute after losing the case with GAO, it filed a federal lawsuit against NASA on August 13 to fight for the HLS contract in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. On the same day the lawsuit was filed, the conflict went as far as Blue Origin’s HLS Lead Engineer Nitin Arora announcing he resigned to go work at SpaceX instead. 

NASA opted to halt work with SpaceX until the lawsuit reached a final verdict. Blue Origin lost the federal lawsuit this week and the agency's HLS work with SpaceX is scheduled to resume on Monday, according to CNBC reporter Michael Sheetz who first-reported the story. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Richard Hertling ruled against Blue Origin, siding with the defense. SpaceX remains the sole winner of the lunar lander development contract to return NASA astronauts to the moon. It is no secret that SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos have a competitive rivalry in the modern Space Race. In response to the news report Musk Tweeted a meme from the 2012 movie 'Judge Dredd' that says in bold letters - 'You have been judged!' (linked below).  

The verdict comes after the U.S. Senate released a draft plan on October 18 of the appropriation bill that governs NASA’s budget for Fiscal Year 2022, where the Senate Appropriations Committee states that NASA should select two companies to develop a HLS lunar lander and proposed to give the agency an additional $100 million to fund a second selection. If this amount is approved for next year’s budget, the total funding for the Artemis HLS program would be approximately $1.295 billion, with NASA receiving an overall budget of $24.83 billion for all its operations planned for 2022. 

“Using this funding, NASA is expected to ensure redundancy and competition, including robust support for research, development, testing, and evaluation for no fewer than two HLS Teams,” the draft bill says. “The Committee expects real investments in development rather than additional studies.” The Senate said that “having at least two teams providing services […] should be the end goal of the current development program.” However, it is unclear whether NASA will accept proposals again for HLS development, especially after Blue Origin officially lost the lawsuit. UPDATE: "Not the decision we wanted, but we respect the court’s judgment, and wish full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract," Jeff Bezos Tweeted.

 

Edit: corrected film year release and added Jeff Bezos Tweet. 

Featured Image Source: NASA





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