Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin slams NASA for its 'unfair' decision to award Elon Musk's SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract

Jeff Bezos Elon MuskMANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty/Axel SpringerBlue Origin founder Jeff Bezos and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
  • Blue Origin filed a protest against NASA’s $2.9 billion contract with SpaceX to send humans to the moon.
  • Blue Origin, owned by Jeff Bezos, said the contract was “flawed” and NASA “moved the goalposts at the last minute.”
  • NASA originally said it would select two out of three companies for the contract, but chose only SpaceX for budget reasons.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin has protested NASA “unfair” decision to award a $2.9-billion contract for landing humans on the moon to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Blue Origin on Monday filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to challenge NASA’s decision to hand the contract to SpaceX, The New York Times first reported.

Bezos’ company described the award as “flawed” in a statement to CNBC, adding that NASA “moved the goalposts at the last minute.” The company said NASA negotiated a proposed price with SpaceX, but not with Blue Origin, which it said was unfair.

NASA announced on April 16 it had chosen SpaceX to land humans on the moon as early as 2024. SpaceX beat Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics. The result was a surprise, as the agency was expected to choose two out of the three companies for the new landing-system contract.

NASA said in a statement that budget concerns and lack of funding from Congress meant it could only pick one company.

Two days after the announcement, Blue Origin told Insider in a statement: “We are looking to learn more about the selection.” One week later, it filed a 50-page protest.

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“In NASA’s own words, it has made a ‘high risk’ selection,” Blue Origin said in its most recent statement. “Their decision eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base, and not only delays, but also endangers America’s return to the Moon. Because of that, we’ve filed a protest with the GAO.”

Musk responded on Twitter to the report about Blue Origin’s protest filing, saying: “Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol.”

In the protest filing, Blue Origin wrote that NASA’s evaluation of its proposal was “unreasonable,” and that it “improperly and disparately” assessed SpaceX’s proposal.

Blue Origin: “We didn’t get a chance to revise and that’s fundamentally unfair”

Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin, reiterated to The New York Times on Monday that NASA’s decision was flawed, adding that the agency should have awarded two companies like it originally said it would.

In its protest filing, Blue Origin said NASA expected the company’s human landing system (HSL) to cost $6 billion – more than double the cost of SpaceX’s $2.9 billion project.

Smith said that NASA went back to SpaceX to negotiate the price of its proposal, but the agency didn’t have the same discussions with Blue Origin or Dynetics.

Blue Origin said in its protest filing that funding both Blue Origin and SpaceX’s HSL’s would have cost NASA less than $9 billion.

“We didn’t get a chance to revise and that’s fundamentally unfair,” Smith told the Times.

SpaceX and NASA didn’t respond immediately to Insider’s request for comment.

If it had won NASA’s lunar lander contract, Blue Origin would have sent its giant lunar lander Blue Moon to the moon. Under the final contract, SpaceX is set to use its Starship rocket to carry humans to the moon for the first time since 1972. The company had been testing Starship prototypes at its site in South Texas – so far every prototype has exploded.

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