Nasa has accused Jeff Bezos’s private space company of threatening to destroy the “once-in-a-generation momentum” to resume human space exploration through its costly and lengthy legal disputes.
Blue Origin launched legal action against the US space agency earlier this year following its failed bid to build a lunar lander for the Artemis space program, which aims to return humans to the Moon this decade.
The lunar mission was originally scheduled for 2024 but this date now looks in jeopardy as a result of Blue Origin’s protests.
The legal action began after Elon Musk’s SpaceX won the lucrative contract to develop its Starship spacecraft, after Nasa put out a call for bids from space companies to build a lunar lander.
This prompted Blue Origin to file a 50-page protest to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) accusing Nasa of “moving the goalposts at the last minute”.
The GAO rejected the protest, but Blue Origin filed a new legal challenge with the US Court of Federal Claims accusing Nasa of being prejudiced against Bezos’s firm.
The legal dispute has resulted in delays to the collaboration between Nasa and SpaceX, with the 2024 deadline put on hold until it is resolved.
Legal filings submitted by Nasa’s legal team, which were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request made by The Verge, accused Blue Origin of gambling on its proposal in the hope that Nasa would be willing to renegotiate the price put forward in the bid.
The lawyers claim that “Blue Origin made a bet and it lost.”
If successful, Blue Origin’s legal bid could void the contract between Nasa and SpaceX and force the space agency to reopen the bidding process.
“All of this once-in-a-generation momentum can easily be undone by one party – in this case, Blue Origin – who seeks to prioritise its own fortunes over that of Nasa, the United States, and every person alive today who dreams to see humans exploring worlds beyond our own,” the legal filings state.
“Plainly stated, a protest sustain in the instant dispute runs the high risk of creating not just delays to the Artemis program, but that it will never actually achieve its goal of returning the United States to the Moon.
“What begins as a mere procurement delay all too easily turns into a lack of political support, a budget siphoned off for other efforts, and ultimately, a shelved mission.”
The court process is due to conclude by 1 November.