You read that right. Bezos is suing NASA because Blue Origin was not selected to be a partner in their Artemis Program. This is due to claims that NASA misinterpreted their lunar lander proposal.
According to The Verge, Blue Origin filed the complaint to the US Court of Federal Claims last Friday. The complaint made was to go after “NASA’s unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals” referencing the moon lander proposals they made along with SpaceX. A spokesperson for Blue Origin expanded on this saying the complaint was, “an attempt to remedy the flaws in the acquisition process found in NASA’s Human Landing System,” and that, “We firmly believe that the issues identified in this procurement and its outcomes must be addressed to restore fairness, create competition, and ensure a safe return to the Moon for America.”
According to Monica Witt, a spokesperson for NASA, NASA is working on reviewing the lawsuits details. When asked about what her thoughts were on the lawsuit potentially causing a pause on SpaceX ‘s work, she said that “as soon as possible, the agency will provide an update on the way forward for returning to the Moon as quickly and as safely as possible under Artemis.”
During the competition, Blue Origin offered a $5.9 billion proposal with their Blue Moon landing process. But NASA chose SpaceX’s $2.9 billion Starship proposal instead. Although NASA said that they would pick two companies to participate, they decided to partner up with just SpaceX. The reason for this decision is plain and simple: funding. According to Kathy Lueders, NASA’s human spaceflight chief, it was impossible to negotiate with Blue Origin to lower their price enough to where they would have given them a contract along with SpaceX.
The program would land two lunar landers, the first one without humans and the other with humans. According to federal data, SpaceX has already been given $439 million in start off.
This left Bezos no choice but to call the manager by protesting the deal for the same reason the lawsuit was filed today. When this did not work, he called corporate: The Government Accountability Office (GAO). Two weeks after the deal was awarded to SpaceX, Blue Origin filed a complaint to the GAO claiming that NASA should have told them that their price was too high and that they would have lowered the price before the award was given. It also claimed that NASA negotiated SpaceX’s proposal before they were given the award. By the end of July, the GAO found no reason for any of these claims and that NASA did nothing wrong. This led to SpaceX to stop work for Artemis for 95 days.
Blue Origin’s next big plan was to publish an infographic on their website that called SpaceX’s moon landing process immensely complex and being a heightened risk. If this were not enough to poison the well, they also put another infographic on the same page that detailed their lunar landing system and calling it flexible and sustainable. It also had a small red dot next to the moon. Could this imply they have plans to work with NASA to go to Mars? Further up the webpage, they titled the section that detailed their system “Safe, Low-Risk, Fast.” This happened only a couple of days ago.
What could Bezos want out of this? It is not like NASA would change their minds and pick them instead. Could this be an attempt to derail the Artemis deal entirely? If anything, the whole thing will be delayed again like the complaint they filed to the GAO.
With all of this in mind, some people, including myself, were supportive of Blue Origin’s future. Now, I am afraid that this camp is decreasing and will continue to do so if Bezos does not stop his antics.