- A tech and science bill passed the Senate on Wednesday.
- The bill included an amendment that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin had pushed for, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX had lobbied against.
- The amendment tells NASA to find a second contractor for its moon lander project, in addition to SpaceX.
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A giant new tech and science funding bill passed by the Senate could give Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin a boost in its rivalry with SpaceX.
The Senate on Wednesday passed the sweeping new US Innovation and Competition Act bill. If the bill passes the House, it would pump $250 billion into research for science and technology in the US.
An amendment on the bill allocates an extra $10 billion to NASA’s moon lander program, and requires NASA to pick a second company for the project in addition to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which won its $2.9 billion contract in April.
Blue Origin, the space exploration company owned by Amazon CEO Bezos, has been lobbying for the extra money, and hopes to be the second company NASA picks. Blue Origin protested SpaceX’s selection at the time, calling it “unfair” and filing an official complaint with the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
In May, Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell submitted an amendment to the US Innovation and Competition Act requiring NASA to award a second contract and allocate an extra $10 billion between SpaceX and the second contractor. Blue Origin is not mentioned in the amendment, but the company is based in Washington State.
SpaceX pushed back against the amendment, handing out flyers on Capitol Hill saying it would give Bezos “a $10 billion sole-source hand-out.” Blue Origin replied with leaflets that said: “What is Elon Musk afraid of… a little competition?”
Sen. Bernie Sanders also pushed back against the amendment, and tried to submit his own amendment to the bill to “eliminate the multi-billion dollar Bezos Bailout.” Per the Washington Post, Sanders ended up voting against the US Innovation and Competition Act bill, which passed with 68 votes to 32.
The version of the amendment that passed was lightly modified, according to the Verge – Cantwell’s original amendment gave NASA 30 days to pick a second contractor, but that has now been lengthened to 60 days.
The bill is not yet law, and must first get through the House.
Blue Origin and SpaceX’s fight over the $10 billion cash injection is the latest development in a long-running rivalry between the companies and their CEOs, two of the richest people on the planet. Bezos announced Monday that on July 20 he would fly into space aboard a Blue Origin spacecraft with his brother, Mark Bezos.