Federal judge dismisses Blue Origin’s complaint about NASA’s contract being awarded solely to Elon Musk’s SpaceX
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from the space company founded by Jeff Bezos over a NASA contract, a setback for Blue Origin’s effort to win work developing a moon lander.
Blue Origin sued the federal government in August after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration awarded a $2.9 billion contract for the lunar lander to Elon Musk’s SpaceX. In the lawsuit, Blue Origin said NASA overlooked safety issues when assessing SpaceX’s proposal.
On Thursday, Federal Claims Judge Richard A. Hertling dismissed Blue Origin’s suit. The court didn’t make Judge Hertling’s ruling public yet, to give the parties the chance to propose redactions.
A spokesman for Blue Origin said the lawsuit highlighted safety issues with NASA’s procurement process that have yet to be addressed. He said the company is working with NASA on other aspects of the mission to bring astronauts back to the moon.
“Not the decision we wanted, but we respect the court’s judgment, and wish full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract,” Mr. Bezos said on Twitter.
Representatives for SpaceX, officially called Space Exploration Technologies Corp., didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. On Twitter, Mr. Musk posted a meme reading “You have been judged!” in apparent reference to the court’s decision.
NASA said it would resume work with SpaceX on the vehicle “as soon as possible” now that the suit has been dismissed. It had paused its work related to the vehicle after Blue Origin filed suit.
SpaceX and Blue Origin have been competing to win high-profile contracts from NASA and cultivate a broader presence for private companies in space by taking commercial astronauts to space on their rockets.
In July, Mr. Bezos was among Blue Origin’s first passengers on a mission that shot him and other guests to the edge of space. The company reprised the effort last month with a launch that counted actor William Shatner as a passenger.
SpaceX has sent professional and amateur astronauts deeper into space. Last year, its Crew Dragon spacecraft launched two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. That spaceflight was the first from the U.S. in nearly a decade and gave NASA a transportation option besides purchasing seats on Russian government rockets. In September the company sent four private astronauts to orbit on a three-day trip.
NASA picked SpaceX for the lunar-lander project in April, choosing Mr. Musk’s company over proposals from Blue Origin and from Leidos Holdings Inc., which bid for the job through its Dynetics unit.
The space agency awarded the work as part of its efforts to send people back to the moon. NASA has said returning astronauts to the lunar surface could occur as soon as 2024.
After NASA awarded the lander contract to SpaceX, Blue Origin and Leidos protested the decision to the Government Accountability Office, an agency that oversees federal contracts. In July, the GAO upheld NASA’s decision, saying the space agency was within its rights to award the contract to a single bidder.
In addition to the space-tourism market where Blue Origin is also competing with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. Mr. Bezos’ company has broad ambitions for its space business, which the Amazon.com Inc. founder has funded in part by selling large sums of his stock in the e-commerce giant.
It is developing its New Glenn rocket designed to use seven engines to lift huge payloads into orbit. Blue Origin is also building rocket engines for United Launch Alliance, which launches satellites for the Pentagon and U.S. spy agencies, and working on designs for nuclear-propulsion systems that could propel vehicles even farther into space.
A more earthly competition has also played out between Messrs. Musk and Bezos this year for the title of the world’s richest person. Mr. Musk, the founder of Tesla Inc., won that title from Mr. Bezos for the first time in January as shares of the electric-vehicle maker soared.
The gap between their wealth has grown recently, with Mr. Musk’s net worth exceeding $300 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. For now, Mr. Bezos is relegated to second place with a net worth of about $196 billion.