The Government Accountability Office today rejected the protests of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin Space Enterprise and Alabama-based Dynetics, ruling that NASA has the right to award SpaceX a contract worth $2.9 billion to build the first A lunar lander that sent astronauts to the moon began in the Apollo era.
An industry team led by Blue Origin and Dynetics made a competitive bid for NASA’s lunar lander business and protested to GAO when NASA received a single-source award in April. GAO has 100 days to decide whether to maintain or reverse the ruling. At the same time, NASA and SpaceX suspended work on the contract.
The bidding protest raised some objections to NASA’s ruling-including NASA only issued one.
NASA initially hoped to provide funding for two of the three teams to continue work on their manned landing system, which would provide planners with a backup option for missions scheduled for 2024. Such a moon landing will be a milestone in the historic NASA Artemis lunar exploration program.
Blue Origin and its industry partners-Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper-have proposed an enhanced version of the Apollo lunar lander with descending elements, ascending elements, and transfer elements . Dynetics provides a low-hanging integrated design that can land on the surface and take off again. SpaceX said it will manufacture a customized version of its Starship super rocket, which is currently under development and testing in Texas.
The Blue Origin team’s proposal was priced at close to $6 billion, twice the bid offered by SpaceX. Dynetics’ bid is even higher, in the $9 billion range.
During the selection process, NASA determined that SpaceX’s proposal had the highest technical score. More importantly, agency officials stated that due to Congressional budget constraints, they can only receive one award.
Blue Origin and Dynetics stated that in order to promote competition and technological redundancy, more than one award should be awarded, but GAO disagreed. Kenneth Patton, GAO’s executive deputy general counsel for procurement law, said that regulators “concluded that NASA’s decision to award only one award did not violate procurement laws or regulations.”
He pointed out that NASA has stated from the beginning that the number of awards to be awarded will depend on funding, and that it has the right to make a single award-not even awards.
Blue Origin and his teammates stated that NASA’s assessment also falsely downplayed the technical advantages of their proposal.But in one High statementBarton said, “The evaluation of all three proposals is reasonable and in compliance with applicable procurement laws, regulations and announcement terms.”
Another objection focused on the fact that after the proposal was submitted but before NASA announced its choice, NASA negotiated the terms of the contract with SpaceX to make the payment schedule in line with its budget expectations.
In the protest, Blue Origin and Dynetics stated that it is unfair for NASA and SpaceX to discuss terms without giving them the same opportunity. “This is a mistake,” Bezos told NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in an open letter released this week.
Barton said that GAO “agrees with the protesters’ views, and in a limited example, NASA dropped the requirements for SpaceX’s announcement.”
Barton wrote: “Despite this discovery, the decision also concluded that the protesters could not determine any reasonable possibility of competitive bias due to this limited difference in assessment.”
He said that the full text of the decision was blocked from being published, “because the decision may contain proprietary and sensitive source selection information.” The lawyers of each party will review the decision to determine what information should not be released, and then publish the public version of the decision to High official website.
In the letter to Nelson, Bezos talked about the value of financial competition and technological redundancy in commercial moon landing service procurement-these factors were also mentioned in congressional discussions. Some members of Congress-including Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. -It has been discussed to add billions of dollars to NASA’s budget to ensure the construction of a second commercial lunar landing system, but it is not clear whether this idea will be established.
This week, Bezos proposed to pay an additional $2 billion in development costs for the Blue Origin team’s landing system-but the proposal did not participate in GAO’s ruling, nor did it receive a public response from NASA.
To address concerns about competition, NASA is establishing some new solicitation plans for the first manned mission to the moon. However, Bezos stated that these solicitations are “just the second, at the same time, a different lander development will provide a truly competitive optical alternative.”
In a series of email statements, Blue Origin said today that the $2 billion offer is still valid and will not be affected by today’s ruling. Marcia Smith of Space Policy Online quoted a company spokesperson who did not want to be named Allegedly, Blue Origin has asked NASA to extend its base period contract to November 1, and extend its offer of $2 billion during the same period.
Blue Origin also stated that it will seek further action from Congress:
“We firmly believe that there are fundamental problems with NASA’s decision, but due to its limited jurisdiction, GAO cannot solve these problems. We will continue to advocate for two direct providers because we believe that this is the correct solution. Congress has taken action to increase the number of issues. Two vendors and appropriate additional resources to support NASA’s efforts to bring Americans back to the moon are very encouraging. We are also very encouraged by the comments made by Administrator Nelson in the past week, which are reiterated NASA’s original intention to provide synchronized competition. The manned landing system project needs to compete now rather than later-this is the best solution for NASA and the best solution for our country.”
Update at 3:30 PM, July 30th, Pacific Time: NASA said that this decision paved the way for determining the timetable for the first manned moon landing of Artemis.this is Full statement:
“NASA received a notice on Friday, July 30, that the U.S. Government Accountability Office has Deny protest Submitted by Blue Origin Federation and Dynetics, and supporting the agency’s sources choose SpaceX continues to develop its manned landing system. This decision enables NASA to award the contract, which will eventually carry out the first manned demonstration landing on the lunar surface according to NASA’s Artemis plan. Importantly, GAO’s decision will enable NASA and SpaceX to establish a timetable for the first manned moon landing in more than 50 years.
“NASA recognizes that sending American astronauts back to the moon and establishing a long-term presence on the moon for the first time since the Apollo program is a priority for the Biden administration and is essential to maintaining America’s leadership in space. Facing the past. One year’s challenge, NASA and its partners have made significant achievements in advancing Artemis, including the successful heat test of the Space Launch System rocket. The unmanned flight of Artemis I will proceed as planned this year, Artemis The Mis II manned mission is scheduled to take place in 2023.
“NASA is urgently advancing, but the safety of astronauts is the top priority. In the process of unswervingly pursuing the goal of establishing a long-term existence on the moon, the agency will not sacrifice the safety of the crew.
“NASA will provide the latest developments on Artemis, the human landing system, and human return to the moon as soon as possible. We will continue to cooperate with the Biden administration and Congress, and cooperate with US business partners to ensure the stability of the country’s return to the moon. And sustainable methods to provide funding.”
“Dynetics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leidos, appreciates GAO’s review of NASA’s manned landing system option A decision. Although disappointed, we respect the decision announced by GAO today. Sustainability enables the Moon to exist for a long time and helps to promote the future Earth-Moon economy. To this end, we continue to develop our HLS design, with a focus on sustainability.
“We are excited about the opportunities provided by NASA’s HLS Next-STEP Appendix N competition, which provides funding for the continued design and risk reduction activities of sustainable landers. We also plan to compete for the lunar exploration transportation service opportunities announced by NASA. We believe Healthy competition is necessary to maintain the industrial base needed to achieve important strategic goals such as space exploration and national security. We will continue to pursue these opportunities with a team to help strengthen the broader industrial base, including international partners.
“Again, we thank GAO for reviewing the decision, and we look forward to working with NASA to explore future HLS opportunities.”
We also contacted SpaceX for comment and will update this report with any response we can pass.