A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin against NASA over the agency’s decision to award a lunar lander contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX earlier this year.
The dismissal of the complaint brings to a close a months-long saga over the Human Landing System program, a NASA initiative to facilitate the design of a lunar landing system that could return humans to the moon in 2024.
When NASA announced that it had chosen SpaceX -- and only SpaceX -- to develop the lander at a cost of $2.9 billion, Blue Origin began its protest. Blue, along with defense contractor Dynetics, filed a complaint with the government watchdog the Government Accountability Office over the decision, on the grounds that awarding a single company was anti-competitive and that the selection process was biased.
While it’s true that NASA did veer from historical precedent in only selecting one provider for the contract, GAO ultimately dismissed the companies’ complaint. The simple fact, according to GAO, was that NASA ended up with less funds than anticipated for the contract; hence, it was only able to give out a single award.
Around the same time, Bezos penned an open letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, offering to solve the budget issue by knocking $2 billion off the cost to develop a lander and self-funding a pathfinder mission in exchange for a contract.
That approach didn’t work either, so in August, Blue filed its lawsuit. According to its complaint, NASA’s evaluation of proposals under the HLS program was “unlawful and improper.”
Federal judge Richard Hertling’s dismissal of the suit is currently sealed, so the exact reasoning behind the decision isn’t yet clear, but he ordered the parties to prepare proposed redactions near the end of the month so the document could be released to the public.
In response to the news, Musk tweeted out a meme from the from the 1995 movie “Judge Dredd”: