Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin has lost a lawsuit against NASA it filed over the agency’s decision to award a $2.9 billion contract to Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX to build a lunar lander to transport astronauts to the Moon, according to a federal court ruling Thursday.
Federal judge Richard A. Hertling ruled in favor of SpaceX, concluding a sealed complaint Blue Origin filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in August, and said a protective order to seal documents in the lawsuit would remain in effect.
The ruling comes amid a heated billionaire space race between Blue Origin, SpaceX and billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
Blue Origin took legal action against NASA saying the agency was “unlawful and improper” in its evaluation of three proposals for the lunar lander contract, including ones from Dynetics and Blue Origin.
Blue Origin spokesperson said in a statement to Forbes Thursday that the lawsuit “highlighted the important safety issues with the Human Landing System procurement process that must still be addressed” —but it was not immediately clear what safety issues the statement was referring to—and that the company has multiple contracts with NASA to achieve the goal to return to the Moon.
Elon Musk replied to a tweet about an article on the ruling with an image from the movie “Dredd” with the words “YOU HAVE BEEN JUDGED!”
NASA said in a statement to Forbes that it will resume working with SpaceX as soon as possible, while SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.
$2 billion. That’s how much Bezos, the richest man in the world, offered as a permanent waiver of all payments over the next two years to “get the program back on track right now” if the agency redirected the contract to Blue Origin, Bezos said in an open letter to NASA in July after NASA awarded the contract to SpaceX in April. Bezos added Blue Origin would additionally pay for a low-Earth orbit mission and cover any extra costs as needed.
Before the open letter, Bezos filed an unsuccessful protest with the Government Accountability Office, saying NASA was “unreasonable” in assessing the proposals and that it had “improperly” waived a mandatory solicitation requirement for SpaceX. However, the Government Accountability Office said in July that NASA was not in violation of the law to award one contract and that the agency was “reasonable” in its evaluation of the proposals.
The lucrative contract was given to SpaceX in April as part of NASA’s Artemis program that aims to fly the first woman and first person of color on the Moon by 2024. SpaceX was selected to develop the first “commercial human lander” to carry the astronauts from the Orion spacecraft to the surface of the moon. The trip would be the first since the early 1970s.