Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin Loses Appeal Against SpaceX’s $2.9 Billion NASA Contract

Back in April, SpaceX won the bidding war for a lunar lander contract from NASA. The $2.9 billion USD contract tasked Elon Musk’s space exploration and transportation company with carrying astronauts back to the moon in its Starship.

However, the award was expected to have two recipients — not just one. Rivals Blue Origin and Dynetics were quick to file a protest against NASA’s decision with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), suspending progress on the contract.

The office came to a verdict on Friday, denying the appeal Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin had filed contesting NASA’s decision — reports Business Insider.

“GAO first concluded that NASA did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award,” said the GAO in a statement.  “The announcement reserved the right to make multiple awards, a single award, or no award at all,” added the GAO.

“In reaching its award decision, NASA concluded that it only had sufficient funding for one contract award. GAO further concluded there was no requirement for NASA to engage in discussions, amend, or cancel the announcement as a result of the amount of funding available for the program.”

When NASA announced it would award the contract solely to SpaceX, the agency noted that the decision hinged on funding constraints for the program from Congress. Furthermore, NASA estimated that Blue Origin’s pitch for a Human Landing System (HLS) would cost $6 billion USD, a little over twice as much as SpaceX’s bid.

Blue Origin argued that NASA never tried to negotiate the price of its HLS, but did engage in talks with SpaceX over cost. Days before the GAO’s verdict, Bezos announced that Blue Origin would be willing to absorb up to $2 billion USD in costs if it was given another shot at the contract.

The GAO concluded that “the evaluation of all three proposals was reasonable, and consistent with applicable procurement law, regulation, and the announcement’s terms.” Following the office’s decision, Musk took to Twitter, tweeting out “GAO” with a flexed bicep emoji.