In a setback for Blue Origin, the US Court of Federal Claims has dismissed a lawsuit brought up by Jeff Bezos’ company against the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The lawsuit was filed as Blue Origin was not happy with the US space agency for awarding the USD 3 billion lunar lander contract to SpaceX earlier this year. Federal Judge Richard Hertling has put an end to over a month-long battle that started with Blue Origin suing NASA. Soon after the judgment, the space agency has said that the work on the project with SpaceX will soon start. “There will be more opportunities for companies in the future where they will get to partner with NASA in its effort to establish a long-term presence of humans at the Moon,” the US space agency said. It must be noted that these initiatives are being taken under NASA’s Artemis program. Reacting to the judgment, a Blue Origin spokesperson said that the company tried to highlight the important safety issues and that must still be addressed. “There are serious safety issues with the procurement process of the Human Landing System procurement. This must still be addressed. An unprejudiced procurement process along with a sound policy is very crucial for returning astronauts safely to the Moon through the US space agency’s public-private partnership model. We are committed to ensuring that the Artemis program of NASA becomes a success,” the spokesperson said.
Bezos personally commented on the judgment. In a tweet, Bezos said that the company respects the judgment of the CFC but he said that ‘it was the decision they wanted.’ His tweet clearly hints that the company is not planning to appeal the decision any further. Hertling has issued a short ruling in which he noted that the motion for judgment moved by the Bezos’ company has been denied. The opinion is yet to be published. It is likely to be released on November 14 after all the properties involved in the lawsuit will propose which parts of the judgment they want to be redacted. Blue Origin was expecting to be part of NASA’s ambitious and much-awaited plan. In order to take the project forward, the US space agency had awarded the contract worth USD 2.9 billion to build Human Landing System to SpaceX. As part of the contract, SpaceX will use its Starship rocket to land astronauts on the lunar surface for the Artemis program. Earlier, the US space agency had publicly hinted that it would choose two companies for the contract. It hinted that the move would keep some competition and redundancy. After initial screening, the US space agency had narrowed to three companies – SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics. However, it took everyone by surprise by announcing just one company for the contract.
SpaceX had asked for USD 2.9 billion for the project. Commenting on its decision to go with only one company, the space agency had said that it was because of the lack of funding for its lunar lander program. This was apparently because of the lower-than-expected allocations for the Artemis program from Congress. However, the appeal was denied by the GAO in late July. This leads to Bezos to take the issue with the US Court of Federal Claims. NASA had halted the work on the contract with SpaceX during the lawsuit. But now the space agency is all set to resume the work on the HLS contract. The decision comes at a time when the company is having an equal share of success and scrutiny. Also, Bezos has increased his involvement in the company after stepping down from the post of chief executive officer of Amazon. The company has two successful crewed flights of New Shepard to its credit. But at the same time, it has been facing a lot of soaring employee turnover. But the company continues to work towards making the company achieve the vision of Blue Origin. The vision of Blue Origin is to make it possible for millions of people to live and work in space so that they can benefit Earth. In October, the company had announced Orbital Reef, a private space station. This will be developed in partnership with a consortium of space companies.