A Timeline of Blue Origin's Moon Lander Fight As It Sues NASA for Choosing SpaceX

Blue Origin, the space company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has launched a legal challenge against NASA after the federal space agency chose rival firm SpaceX to take part in its upcoming moon missions.

Blue Origin has complained about NASA's decision for months, after the agency granted SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to develop a system that will land humans on the moon for the first time in decades. This could happen as soon as 2024.

NASA had previously indicated that it could award more than one funding contract for the mission, potentially allowing Blue Origin to step in with its own moon landing system in competition with SpaceX. In the end, only SpaceX received a contract.

Bezos' previous complaints about the issue have already delayed SpaceX from working on its contract, and Blue Origin's latest legal case could potentially cause further delays to the Artemis moon mission.

Below is a timeline of developments, leading to the current controversy.

April 30 2020 — NASA selects Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX to put forward lunar lander designs

In the spring of 2020 NASA announced that three private companies had been contracted, at a cost of nearly $1 billion, to help develop lunar landers under the Artemis program to put humans on the moon.

The agency said that Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX would work to put forward design proposals for the Human Landing System (HLS) and that the agency would go from there in terms of demonstrations and services contracts.

In response, Blue Origin put together a national team including aerospace firms Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, who would each build different parts of the ship.

November 16 2020 — NASA says two companies could go to next stage

NASA reconfirmed that "up to two" of the three contractors could be selected to go onto further development of the landing system, depending on how much money the agency had.

NASA said it wanted to award contracts to two companies but that this would ultimately be decided "pending availability of funds," according to a Government Accountability Office document.

April 16 2021 — NASA announces SpaceX gets the HLS contract

NASA said that SpaceX was the company that the agency had selected to continue with the landing system.

Kathy Lueders, NASA's associate administrator for Human Explorations and Operations Mission Directorate, said in a statement at the time: "This critical step puts humanity on a path to sustainable lunar exploration and keeps our eyes on missions farther into the solar system, including Mars."

The agency had already granted an extension to all three parties to put forward their designs, as the original deadline for that was February 2021.

April 26 — Blue Origin and Dynetics protest the decision

Blue Origin and Dynetics filed protests to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) because NASA selected SpaceX to go ahead with the moon landing mission.

The companies cited "issues and concerns" with the award process and argued that the agency should have awarded multiple contracts after previously stating it was considering up to two firms.

July 26 — Jeff Bezos asks NASA head Bill Nelson to offer Blue Origin a contract

The Blue Origin founder wrote to NASA administrator Bill Nelson, stating that the decision to offer only SpaceX a contract was "a mistake" and that NASA should act to create competition.

Bezos said Blue Origin would waive payments over two years up to $2 billion to help the HLS budget and also develop a demonstration mission at no extra cost.

July 30 — GAO denies Blue Origin / Dynetics protest

The GAO stated that NASA was within its rights to choose only one contract for the Human Landing System and that SpaceX's design proposal had the lowest price tag "with the highest rating."

Another GAO document shows SpaceX's initial HLS proposal was worth around $3 billion while Blue Origin's was worth just under $6 billion and Dynetics' was worth $9 billion.

The GAO noted that NASA had concluded it did not have enough funding available to make more than one contract.

It also said Blue Origins and Dynetics "could not establish any reasonable possibility of competitive prejudice."

August 16 — Blue Origin takes NASA to federal court

Blue Origin put forward a federal court complaint against NASA, with the company's lawyers asserting the agency had conducted "unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals."

In a statement to CNBC, a Blue Origin spokesperson said: "We firmly believe that the issues identified in this procurement and its outcomes must be addressed to restore fairness, create competition, and ensure a safe return to the moon for America."

A NASA spokesperson told Newsweek: "NASA officials are currently reviewing details of the case.

"As soon as possible, the agency will provide an update on the way forward for returning to the Moon as quickly and as safely as possible under Artemis."

This article has been updated with a statement from NASA.

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos speaks at a Blue Origin event in Washington, D.C., in May 2019. Bezos is the founder of both Blue Origin and online commerce giant Amazon. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

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