- Bezos sent an open letter to NASA offering to cover $US2 ($AU3) billion for the Human Landing System program.
- Blue Origin’s offer would help it compete with SpaceX for a $US2 ($AU3).9 billion NASA contract.
- In the letter, Bezos criticizes NASA’s original decision to select SpaceX as the sole winner.
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Jeff Bezos’ space company is offering to cover billions of dollars in costs for a contract with NASA to take astronauts to the moon.
Blue Origin said it would cover up to $US2 ($AU3) billion for the first two years of production of a moon lander, waiving payments for the first two years if NASA awards the company the project. The company is also offering to develop and launch a pathfinder mission at its own expense, as well as work with NASA on a fixed-price contract, which would free the space agency from any cost overages.
The offer could make a contract with Blue Origin a cheaper option than one with Elon Musk’s company. SpaceX was originally handed the NASA contract for the Human Landing System program in April. NASA was forced to suspend the contract in May after Bezos’ company filed a protest against the $US2 ($AU3).9 billion contract, calling it “unfair.” The contract will remain suspended until rulings have been made on the protests.
In an open letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson on Monday, Bezos highlighted his commitment to keeping the Human Landing System program competitive by having NASA select two companies to build machinery to take astronauts to the moon instead of just one. Before selecting a single winner of the contest, NASA had given 10-month contracts to SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics to begin work on lunar landers so the agency could pick from a variety of options.
“Instead of this single source approach, NASA should embrace its original strategy of competition,” Bezos wrote. Later he added, “Without competition, a short time into the contract, NASA will find itself with limited options as it attempts to negotiate missed deadlines, design changes, and cost overruns.”
In June, the Senate passed a tech and science bill that included an amendment that would allocate an extra $US10 ($AU14) billion to the moon-lander program and require NASA to pick a second company in addition to SpaceX.
At the time, Musk’s company pushed back against the amendment, saying the bill would give Bezos “a $US10 ($AU14) billion sole-source hand-out.”
Bezos’ open letter took aim at NASA’s relationship with SpaceX.
“In April (prior to your confirmation as NASA administrator), only one HLS bidder, SpaceX, was offered the opportunity to revise their price and funding profile, leading to their selection,” Bezos wrote. “Blue Origin was not offered the same opportunity. That was a mistake, it was unusual, and it was a missed opportunity. But it is not too late to remedy. We stand ready to help NASA moderate its technical risks and solve its budgetary constraints and put the Artemis Program back on a more competitive, credible, and sustainable path.”
A NASA spokesperson told Insider the agency is aware of Bezos’ letter, but declines to comment to “maintain the integrity” of the reviewal process. A spokesperson from SpaceX did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Blue Origin and SpaceX’s fight over the $US10 ($AU14) billion cash injection is the latest development in a long rivalry between the companies and their CEOs, two of the richest people on the planet.
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