Jeff Bezos is offering 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 his rival, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, won earlier this year. Bezos’ new offer is the latest in an escalating series of efforts to win the Blue Origin contract.
In a Monday morning letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Bezos said he did always Waive up to $2 billion in contract payments for the first two years if NASA adds the Blue Origin probe to a major phase of the agency’s Human Landing System program, which calls for the first humans to land 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. “I think this mission is important,” Bezos said. “I am honored to make these contributions and am grateful to be in a financial position to be able to do so.”
NASA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The petition comes a week before the probation The Government Accountability Office is set to issue a decision on a formal protest against the NASA award to SpaceX presented by Blue Origin this spring. “All that NASA needs is to take advantage of this offer and amend” the contract, Bezos said.
He says it’s not that simple 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 not work the way Blue Origin wants. “I see this as a positive sign overall, but it should not affect the current awards or strategy,” she said.
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 viewer, Dynetics. These companies are still in the process of competing for a future moon that is still in the works, but NASA has claimed that its limited funds from Congress only allowed the agency to choose one contractor: SpaceX.
Eventually 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 their looks in the game as well.” However, she believes that the new proposal is unlikely to change NASA’s opinion about the current award. Agency employees are concerned that tweaking NASA’s decision to award a single contract to SpaceX could lead to new legal problems. “NASA cannot ‘receive bids’ just because the funding is available. There is absolutely nothing stopping Blue from going ahead with their own money to get in a better position to win something in the next round,” says Garver.
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 ongoing need for more Artemis funding. Blue Origin’s protest against NASA’s decision has halted SpaceX’s $3 billion contract 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.
Since filing its protest, Blue Origin has launched a strategy aimed at persuading NASA to issue a “corrective action” on its HLS decision before the Government Accountability Office issues its ruling. Blue Origin CEO, Bob Smith Barnstor The Capitol in May, and a lengthy protest process from the Government Accountability Office, gave Blue Origin lobbyists time to push for legislation that would allow NASA to spend an additional $10 billion on its HLS program, a portion of which could hypothetically help fund the lunar lander. subsidiary of the company. But both sides of their strategy may not proceed as planned. Critics have called the amendment, which has been passed by the Senate and is being debated in the House of Representatives, as a “bezos rescue.” The GAO protests are rarely successful.
Bezos’ bid for the $2 billion rebate is the company’s latest — and arguably the most desperate — effort to give NASA a reason to choose the Blue Origin Blue Moon offer. But it is not the first personal presentation of Bezos. In 2019, in the wake of the illustrious unveiling of the Blue Origin lunar lander in Washington, D.C., Bezos met then-NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at agency headquarters to offer to pay 30 percent of the cost of the Blue Origin experimental lunar lander mission. , or roughly $200 million at the time, according to three people familiar with the visit.
Since it was revealed in DC, Blue Origin has assembled a “national team” of partners including Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Under the partnership, Northrop will build the Blue Moon’s transport component, helping to separate the system from a lunar-orbiting module when it begins its journey to the surface. Blue Origin will run the part that puts astronauts on the moon. Lockheed will lead flight crew training and the construction of the Blue Moon ascent component, part of the lander that blasts off from the lunar surface to a lunar orbiting space station called Gateway. Monday’s speech from Bezos also promises to “protect NASA from partner cost-escalation concerns.”