The billionaire’s space company, Blue Origin, lodged a 50-page protest of the decision with federal auditors at the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The company argued that NASA misjudged Blue Origin’s proposal in the three-way competition to build the new Moon lander, which also involved a bid from the Alabama-based defence firm Dynetics.
The three companies were competing to build the landing craft that would be used in NASA’s Artemis programme, which aims to land the first woman and next man on the surface of the Moon by 2024.
Blue Origin had challenged the $2.9 billion award to Elon Musk’s SpaceX for the lander, arguing NASA was required to make multiple awards. The GAO said it “denied the protest arguments that NASA acted improperly in making a single award to SpaceX.”
The company also offered to restore competition to the Human Landing System (HLS) programme by closing the US space agency’s budgetary shortfall with a waiver of $2bn on payments, in an open letter to Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson.
In addition, the company said it would also fund the space vehicle’s test launch to low-Earth orbit which is likely to cost millions more.
The space agency’s evaluation of three lander proposals was “reasonable, and consistent with applicable procurement law, regulation, and the announcement’s terms,” GAO attorney Kenneth Patton said in a statement.
Blue Origin said on Friday it remained convinced that there were “fundamental issues” with NASA’s decision, and that GAO was not able to address them “due to their limited jurisdiction.”