The GAO found NASA complied with contracting law in giving SpaceX a lone award
The Government Accountability Office crushed Blue Origin’s dissent over NASA’s choice to pick a solitary lunar lander worker for hire, the organization said Friday, likewise denying a comparative dissent from Dynetics. The GAO’s choice keeps Blue Origin’s adversary, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the sole victor of NASA’s rewarding Moon lander program and hands a misfortune to Jeff Bezos, whose space organization pursued a months-in length battle to win a similar financing.
In proper fights recorded in April, Bezos’ Blue Origin and guard project worker Dynetics blamed NASA for crossing paths with contracting law when the office retired their recommendations and gave Musk’s SpaceX a solitary $2.9 billion agreement to construct the country’s first human lunar lander in quite a while and land a group on the Moon by 2024. NASA had said it could grant up to two organizations for the agreement, yet never dedicated to that number, and went with SpaceX’s Starship proposition.The GAO found that NASA “reserved the right to make multiple awards, a single award, or no award at all.”
Musk responded to the news by tweeting “GAO” with a flexing bicep emoji.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 30, 2021
In picking only SpaceX, NASA said it did what it could with the funding it had from Congress. Lawmakers gave NASA a quarter of the roughly $3 billion it requested for its astronaut Moon lander program. In its protest, Blue Origin said NASA should’ve called off the program or retooled it when the agency realized it wouldn’t have had enough money to fund two contractors. But the GAO rejected that argument, saying “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.”
Blue Origin and Dynetics’ misfortune at the GAO lifts the three-month procedural hold on SpaceX’s agreement, which was set up as the GAO settled Blue Origin’s dissent. That is uplifting news for NASA’s speedy Artemis program, which actually calls for handling a group of space explorers on the Moon by 2024, with a few manned missions after that. NASA has said it intends to open up future lunar transportation contract programs that different organizations, including the individuals who lost to SpaceX, can seek. Yet, Blue Origin has said that SpaceX, as the sole victor of the main agreement, would enjoy an out of line upper hand over other possible bidders for those future honors.
“We stand firm in our belief that there were fundamental issues with NASA’s decision, but the GAO wasn’t able to address them due to their limited jurisdiction,” a Blue Origin spokesperson said in a statement. If it decides to, the company could bring its grievances to the US Court of Federal Claims, the only other legal arena for bid disputes. “We’ll continue to advocate for two immediate providers as we believe it is the right solution… The Human Landing System program needs to have competition now instead of later – that’s the best solution for NASA and the best solution for our country,” the spokesperson said.
Blue Origin’s proposition for the NASA program was for its $6 billion Blue Moon lunar lander, which the organization is working with a “National Team” of subcontractors that incorporates Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. On Monday, Bezos personally offered to markdown the expense of the Blue Moon lander by up to $2 billion. He said in an open letter to NASA overseer Bill Nelson that a particular offer would “connect the HLS budgetary subsidizing shortage” and “get the program in the groove again at the present time.”
That offer still stands, a Blue Origin spokesperson said, adding: “We’re talking with NASA about next steps and appropriate actions.”
NASA said the GAO administering in support of its permits the office and SpaceX to think of a course of events for landing people on the Moon. It wasn’t promptly certain whether NASA actually anticipates that SpaceX should fulfill the 2024 time constraint after the 95-day delay brought about by the dissent, but it said it’s “moving forward with urgency” while keeping safety during Starship’s development a priority.
The first two Artemis missions are still on track, NASA said. The first will be uncrewed. For the second Artemis mission, astronauts will take a trip around the Moon and back aboard the agency’s Orion capsule, without landing. The third mission will involve a landing with SpaceX’s Starship, which will ferry astronauts from Orion down to the lunar surface.
“As soon as possible, NASA will provide an update on the way ahead for Artemis, the human landing system, and humanity’s return to the Moon,” NASA said.