Blue Origin Loses NASA Lawsuit Over Lunar Lander Contract That Went to SpaceX

Blue Origin Loses NASA Lawsuit Over Lunar Lander Contract That Went to SpaceX
Photo: Saul Loeb, Getty Images

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has officially lost its lawsuit against NASA over the agency’s decision to award SpaceX a $US2.9 ($AU4) billion lunar lander contract. The ruling will likely reduce further delays that threatened to prevent NASA from achieving its goal of returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024 (a deadline that the agency already seems likely to miss).

In a one-page ruling, Court of Federal Claims Judge Richard A. Hertling granted the federal government’s motion to dismiss the case and gave Blue Origin and the government until November 18 to redact the full opinion before it gets released to the public.

In a statement sent to Gizmodo, a Blue Origin spokesperson said the suit “highlighted the important safety issues with the Human Landing System procurement process that must still be addressed.”

“Blue Origin remains deeply committed to the success of the Artemis program, and we have a broad base of activity on multiple contracts with NASA to achieve the United States’ goal to return to the Moon to stay,” the spokesperson said. “We are fully engaged with NASA to mature sustainable lander designs, conduct a wide variety of technology risk reductions, and provide Commercial Lunar Payload Services. We are also under contract with NASA to develop in-situ resource utilization technology, lunar space robotics, and lunar landing sensor collaboration including testing on New Shepard. We look forward to hearing from NASA on next steps in the HLS procurement process.”

Company founder Jeff Bezos, meanwhile, struck a somber tone on Twitter. “Not the decision we wanted, but we respect the court’s judgment, and wish full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract,” Bezos wrote.

The ruling marks the end of a tedious process dating back to April, when Blue Origin, alongside Dynetics, filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office claiming the bidding process for NASA’s contract was unfair. After that effort failed, Blue Origin moved on to file its suit against NASA, despite Bezos previously claiming that such lawsuits were hindering space exploration.

Following the ruling, NASA released a statement today saying it will resume its work with SpaceX right away and acknowledged future opportunities for companies (maybe even Blue Origin) to partner with them.

“In addition to this contract, NASA continues working with multiple American companies to bolster competition and commercial readiness for crewed transportation to the lunar surface,” NASA wrote. “There will be forthcoming opportunities for companies to partner with NASA in establishing a long-term human presence at the Moon under the agency’s Artemis program, including a call in 2022 to U.S. industry for recurring crewed lunar landing services.”