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Blue Origin loses legal fight with NASA over SpaceX’s lunar lander contract

November 4, 2021, 3:16 PM UTC

Elon Musk has scored a victory in the billionaire space race.

Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin has failed in its bid to block Musk’s space company, SpaceX, from receiving a $2.9 billion contract to develop a lunar lander that would carry astronauts to the Moon. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled against Blue Origin on Thursday.

Blue Origin had also bid on the contract, but lost. It filed suit against NASA in August, citing what it called “NASA’s unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals.” It opted for a legal fight after the U.S. Government Accountability Office denied Blue Origin’s protest, upholding NASA’s decision to go with SpaceX.

The feud started in April, when Blue Origin lost the lunar lander contract. It had hoped to force NASA to reopen the contract bidding process and “make a new selection and award.”

It also led to a war of words between Musk and Bezos. Musk, on a tech conference stage in September, said, “I think he should put more of his energy toward getting to orbit than on lawsuits.” Bezos fired back the next day, saying, “SpaceX has a long track record of suing the U.S. government on procurement matters and protesting various governmental decisions. It is difficult to reconcile that historical record with their recent position on others filing similar actions.”

Before filing the suit, Blue Origin tried a carrot approach, with Bezos writing an open letter to NASA administrator Bill Nelson, offering to cover up to $2 billion in costs to build a lander that would take astronauts to the Moon in exchange for a contract to build the device.

When that failed, the company pursued legal action, saying NASA “disregarded key flight safety requirements.”

Federal judge Richard Hertling, in a sealed ruling (owing to the proprietary information in the case), disagreed with that argument.

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