The space-obsessed billionaires are fighting again—and now a federal court is involved.
On Friday, Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, filed a complaint against NASA with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, arguing that it deserves a share of the lunar contract awarded to Elon Musk’s firm, SpaceX. It is just the latest salvo in a months-long space feud between the billionaires’ firms.
“This bid protest challenges NASA’s unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals...for a demonstration mission for a human landing system for lunar exploration,” attorneys for Blue Origin wrote in a filing.
The company requested that its full complaint be kept under seal, due to possible competitive information that would come out over the course of the proceedings. The court signed off on that request on Monday.
Bezos’ unhappiness stretches back to April, when NASA decided that it would award the lunar contract entirely to SpaceX, which had submitted a $2.9 billion proposal. Blue Origin and another firm, Dynetics, had also submitted bids.
Blue Origin appealed that decision to the Government Accountability Office, which issued a denial last month.
“After noting that SpaceX submitted the lowest-priced proposal with the highest rating, and that the offers submitted by Blue Origin and Dynetics were significantly higher in price, NASA also concluded that the agency lacked the necessary funding to make more than one award,” wrote Kenneth E. Patton, the GAO’s managing associate general counsel for procurement law, in a press release announcing the decision.
Bezos has been hankering to gain ground in the space race. Also last month, he sought to boost public awareness of Blue Origin by launching himself into space—briefly—alongside his brother and two other passengers. The internet had a lot to say about the shape of the rocket.
Subsequently, he tried again to win a piece of the Artemis lunar contract. In an open letter, Bezos offered to waive $2 billion in fees to NASA. That seemingly has not worked, evidenced by last week’s legal filing.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Blue Origin 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 representative for NASA said, in part, that “officials are currently reviewing details of the case. NASA is committed to the Artemis program and the nation’s global leadership in space exploration.”
The litigation is clearly rankling Musk. Last week, a video circulated on Twitter of Bezos discussing how space contracts in the modern era take longer to hammer out. “Today there would be three protests and the losers would sue the federal government because they didn’t win,” he said.
“Iron(y)man,” Musk replied on Friday.
He followed up with a pair of tweets on a separate thread. “No amount of money can defy physics,” Musk wrote, “As Jeffrey Besos is aptly demonstrating.” It isn’t clear if the typo was intentional.