Bezos’ Blue Origin loses lawsuit against NASA over SpaceX lunar lander contract

Jeff Bezos, left, and Elon Musk

Getty Images; Reuters

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled against Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin on Thursday in the company’s lawsuit versus NASA over a lucrative astronaut lunar lander contract awarded to Elon Musk’s SpaceX earlier this year.

Federal judge Richard Hertling sided with the defense in his ruling, completing a months-long battle after Blue Origin sued NASA in August.

A Blue Origin spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC that the company’s lawsuit “highlighted the important safety issues with the Human Landing System procurement process that must still be addressed.”

“Returning astronauts safely to the Moon through NASA’s public-private partnership model requires an unprejudiced procurement process alongside sound policy that incorporates redundant systems and promotes competition. Blue Origin remains deeply committed to the success of the Artemis program,” the company said.

NASA and SpaceX did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the ruling.

Musk, in a tweet responding to CNBC’s report on the ruling, posted a photo from the 2012 movie “Dredd.”

NASA in April awarded SpaceX with the sole contract for the agency’s Human Landing System program under a competitive process. Worth $2.9 billion, the SpaceX contract will see the company use its Starship rocket to deliver astronauts to the moon’s surface for NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions.

A variation of SpaceX’s Starship rocket for NASA’s HLS program.

NASA

SpaceX was competing with Blue Origin and Dynetics for what was expected to be two contracts, before NASA only awarded a single contract due to a lower-than-expected allocation for the program from Congress.

Blue Origin quickly protested the decision with the U.S. Government Accountability Office, but the GAO in late July denied the company’s appeal – leading Bezos’ space company to escalate its legal action.

A redacted version of Blue Origin’s lawsuit revealed the company’s complaint focused on proving that NASA wrongly awarded the contract to only SpaceX and “disregarded key flight safety requirements” in the process.

Hertling’s ruling dismissed Blue Origin’s claims. The court’s opinion is currently sealed, as the case contains information proprietary to the companies, but the parties were ordered by Hertling to deliver proposed redactions by Nov. 18, to publicly release the opinion.

NASA’s work with SpaceX on the HLS contract was halted during the lawsuit but is scheduled to resume on Monday.

(With inputs from CNBC)