Blue Origin, the US space company of billionaire Jeff Bezos, has protested NASA’s choice of SpaceX to build the spacecraft to take US astronauts to the moon for the first time since the 1970s. The protest has been filed with Congressional regulator GAO.
“NASA performed a flawed acquisition and moved the goalposts at the last minute,” Blue Origin said in a statement to AFP news agency. The decision “eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly shrinks the supply base, and not only slows down but also jeopardizes America’s return to the moon,” the private space company said.
NASA announced more than a week ago that it would choose Tesla founder Elon Musk’s company and award SpaceX a $ 2.9 billion contract to develop Starship. But Blue Origin argued that NASA misjudged the risks associated with choosing SpaceX’s “all-new launcher”. This would entail the necessary risks and, according to the company, its development takes longer than expected.
Until now, unmanned test flights with Starship have not been very successful. On landing efforts, the spacecraft ended up in a huge fireball. Recently, the US Aviation Authority FAA announced an investigation into safety in some failed tests. Blue Origin believes that by now only choosing SpaceX, NASA is jeopardizing the lunar project because there is no backup plan. In addition, it creates a potential monopoly for all future NASA reconnaissance missions in the company’s eyes.
Bezos, the founder of Amazon, wanted to win the contract with aerospace and defence concerns Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. He hopes through GAO to increase pressure on NASA to revoke the earlier decision to choose SpaceX.