According to a ruling issued on Thursday by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin was unsuccessful in its case against NASA over a lucrative human lunar lander contract won to Elon Musk’s SpaceX earlier this year.
In his verdict, Federal Judge Richard Hertling agreed with the defence, bringing an end to a months-long legal struggle that began when Blue Origin sued NASA in August.
Work with SpaceX will restart “as soon as feasible” after the issuance of the verdict, according to a statement from the space agency.
In addition, the agency said that “there will be upcoming chances for firms to engage with NASA in creating a long-term human presence on the Moon under the agency’s Artemis programme,” which is now under development.
According to a statement sent to CNBC by a Blue Origin spokeswoman, the company’s lawsuit “highlighted the critical safety flaws with the Human Landing System procurement process that must still be resolved.”
“In order to safely return people to the Moon using NASA’s public-private partnership model, a fair and open procurement procedure, as well as good policy that integrates redundant systems and encourages competition, are required.” In a statement, Blue Origin said that the corporation is “fully dedicated to the success of the Artemis programme.”
Adding a personal touch to the result, Bezos said that although “the outcome we desired” was reached, “we accept the court’s judgement” was expressed – meaning that his firm would not pursue an appeal of the case further.
Not the decision we wanted, but we respect the court’s judgment, and wish full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract. pic.twitter.com/BeXc4A8YaW
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) November 4, 2021
After being contacted for comment on the verdict, SpaceX did not reply.
Musk responded to a report on the verdict by CNBC with a picture from the 2012 film “Dredd,” which he shared on Twitter.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 4, 2021
NASA granted SpaceX the only contract for the agency’s Human Landing System programme in April, after a competitive process that included other bidders. The SpaceX deal, which is worth $2.9 billion, will see the firm utilise its Starship rocket to send people to the moon’s surface in support of NASA’s forthcoming Artemis space missions.
SpaceX was in a competition with Blue Origin and Dynetics for what was supposed to be two contracts, but NASA only granted a single contract as a result of a lower-than-planned appropriation for the programme from the United States Congress.
Blue Origin filed a complaint with the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) as soon as the decision was made, but the GAO refused the business’s appeal in late July, prompting Bezos’ space company to accelerate its legal fight. Aside from that, Bezos is the creator of the e-commerce behemoth Amazon.
NASA was incorrect to grant the contract to solely SpaceX, according to a redacted version of Blue Origin’s lawsuit. The company’s case centred on establishing that NASA “disregarded essential flight safety standards” when awarding the contract to SpaceX.
Blue Origin’s arguments were rejected by Hertling in his judgement. The court’s ruling is now sealed because the case involves information that is private to the corporations involved; however, Hertling has asked the parties to submit recommended redactions by Nov. 18 in order for the judgement to be made publicly available.
The litigation caused NASA’s work with SpaceX on the HLS contract to be temporarily suspended, but it is expected to resume on Monday.
The court’s judgement, which represents a setback for Blue Origin’s objectives, comes at a time when the firm is experiencing both success and criticism.
Following his resignation as CEO of Amazon, Bezos has personally upped his participation in Blue Origin. Despite the fact that the business has completed two successful crewed flights of its suborbital New Shepard rocket to far, Blue Origin has seen a high rate of staff turnover, as well as complaints of safety violations and a “toxic” workplace culture from its former employees.
The corporation, however, has continued to strive toward Bezos’ goal for the company, which is “millions of people living and working in space to help Earth,” particularly by relocating “industries that stress the Earth” to space.
The private space station Orbital Reef, which will be built in conjunction with a coalition of space enterprises and sent into orbit later this decade, was revealed last month by Blue Origin in partnership with a space industry consortium.