A government watchdog just rejected Jeff Bezos' protest of NASA awarding a lunar lander contract to SpaceX alone

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A government watchdog just rejected Jeff Bezos' protest of NASA awarding a lunar lander contract to SpaceX alone
Jeff Bezos (left) and Elon Musk. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
  • Jeff Bezos has been dealt a loss in his protest of NASA's awarding SpaceX a lunar lander contract.
  • Blue Origin had said it was unfair of NASA to award the $2.9 billion contract to just one company.
  • SpaceX CEO Elon Musk responded to the news on Twitter with a flexing bicep emoji.

Jeff Bezos has just been dealt a blow in his effort to challenge a big victory for SpaceX.

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Friday denied a protest that Bezos' Blue Origin had filed that contested NASA's decision to award a lunar lander contract to SpaceX alone.

"GAO first concluded that NASA did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award," the office said in a statement.

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Elon Musk's spaceflight company SpaceX was chosen to receive the $2.9 billion contract in April, edging out defense contractor Dynetics and Blue Origin. The contract is part of NASA's goal to return astronauts to the Moon as early as 2024 through the agency's Artemis program. NASA's decision came as a shock since the agency had been expected to choose two of the three companies, not just one.

Shortly after, Blue Origin and Dynetics filed protests challenging the decision. Blue Origin said NASA was required to award contracts to multiple companies in accordance with its initial stated preference.

When announcing it had picked SpaceX, NASA said it only chose one company because of limited funding from Congress for the program.

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Blue Origin says NASA never initiated talks with the company to try to negotiate the price of its human landing system, which NASA expected would cost the agency $6 billion, roughly twice as much as SpaceX's price. Blue Origin says that NASA did, however, allow SpaceX to negotiate.

"The announcement reserved the right to make multiple awards, a single award, or no award at all," GAO's statement continued. "In reaching its award decision, NASA concluded that it only had sufficient funding for one contract award. GAO further concluded there was no requirement for NASA to engage in discussions, amend, or cancel the announcement as a result of the amount of funding available for the program."

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The office added that "the evaluation of all three proposals was reasonable, and consistent with applicable procurement law, regulation, and the announcement's terms."

A Blue Origin spokesperson told Insider the company will "continue to advocate for two immediate providers as we believe it is the right solution."

"We stand firm in our belief that there were fundamental issues with NASA's decision, but the GAO wasn't able to address them due to their limited jurisdiction," the spokesperson said. "The Human Landing System program needs to have competition now instead of later - that's the best solution for NASA and the best solution for our country."

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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk responded to GAO's decision on Twitter, simply writing "GAO" and adding the flexing bicep emoji.

Just days ago, Bezos offered to cover up to $2 billion dollars in costs if NASA were to give Blue Origin another shot at the lunar lander contract.

Dynetics did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

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