The federal government Friday rejected an appeal by billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to get in on NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the moon by using rival Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
NASA in April awarded the $2.9 billion contract for a lunar lander to the more established SpaceX, which also offered a cheaper price than the bids from Blue Origin and Dynetics Inc., a subsidiary of Leidos. The two losing companies appealed the contract to the Government Accountability Office on the grounds that there should have been multiple contracts and that the proposals weren’t evaluated correctly, but the agency rejected their request.
The decision will allow “NASA and SpaceX to establish a timeline for the first crewed landing on the moon in more than 50 years,” NASA said in a statement Friday, calling a moon landing a priority of the Biden administration.
US watchdog rejects Blue Origin’s protest of NASA lunar lander contract
The GAO found NASA’s evaluation was “consistent with applicable procurement law.”
The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has dismissed protests from Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics over NASA’s decision to hand out a single $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX as part of its Human Landing System program. On Friday, the watchdog said NASA’s “evaluation of all three proposals was reasonable and consistent with applicable procurement law, regulation, and the announcement’s terms.”
In reviewing NASA’s decision, the GAO says the space agency “did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award.” It notes NASA gave itself the flexibility to hand out a single contract, multiple awards or none at all when it first announced the Human Landing System program.
“We stand firm in our belief that there were fundamental issues with NASA’s decision, but the GAO wasn’t able to address them due to their limited jurisdiction. We’ll continue to advocate for two immediate providers as we believe it is the right solution,” a spokesperson for Blue Origin said following the decision. “We’ve been encouraged by actions in Congress to add a second provider and appropriate additional resources to NASA’s pursuit to return Americans to the Moon. We’re also very encouraged by Administrator Nelson’s comments over the past week that reaffirm NASA’s original intent to provide simultaneous competition. The Human Landing System program needs to have competition now instead of later — that’s the best solution for NASA and the best solution for our country.”