Jeff Bezos has offered NASA a discount of at least $2 billion for the agency to give his space company a lucrative contract for a human lunar landing system that was won by his rival, SpaceX, earlier this year. Bezos' new offer is the latest In an escalating series of efforts to win the Blue Origin contract.
In a morning letter to Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, Bezos said he would permanently waive up to $2 billion in contract payments for the first two years if NASA added the Blue Origin moon lander to a major phase of the agency's human landing system program, which calls for a landing. The first human on the moon in decades. Furthermore, Blue Origin will self-finance a test launch of a blue moon into low Earth orbit, a feat likely to be worth hundreds of millions more.
Bezos said, I think this is a good job. I am honored to make these contributions and am grateful to be in a financial position to be able to do so.
The petition comes a week before the watchdog's government accounting office is set to issue a formal protest against the NASA award for SpaceX presented by Blue Origin this spring.
Bezos said, all that NASA needs is to take advantage of this offer and amend the contract.
It's not quite that simple, says Laurie Garver, the former NASA deputy administrator who oversaw the start of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Garver said Bezos' offer is something the agency shouldn't ignore, but that it may also not work the way Blue Origin wants. I see this as a positive sign overall but it shouldn't affect the current awards or strategy.
It all began in April when NASA announced it was headed with SpaceX's Starship system to take the first American crew of humans to the Moon in nearly half a century by 2024, putting on hold proposals from Blue Origin and another presenter, Dynetics. These companies are still in the process of competing for the moon in the future that is still in the works, but NASA has claimed that its limited funds from Congress only allowed the agency to select one contractor, SpaceX.
And bringing in more competing contractors, Garver says, has always been the plan, and it's nice to know we'll now have one that puts its appearance in the game as well. However, she believes the new offering is unlikely to change NASA's opinion on the current award. Agency staff is concerned that tweaking NASA's decision to award a single contract to SpaceX could lead to new legal issues, NASA cannot receive offers just because funding is available. There is absolutely nothing stopping Blue from going ahead with their own money to get I'm in a better position to win something in the next round.
In his letter, Bezos said the $2 billion offer would replenish the HLS budget funding shortfall and get the program back on track now, appealing to NASA's fast-dead deadline for the 2024 Moonshot and the agency's perpetual need for more Artemis funding.
Blue Origin's protest against NASA's decision has halted SpaceX's $3 billion contracts with NASA while the Government Accountability Office is adjudicating the facts of the case.
The deadline for a GAO decision is August 2, or next Monday, this ruling may recommend - but not force NASA to restart the award program and review its decision, or reject Blue Origin's protest and appeal to NASA's current plan.