Science & Technology

Court filings shed light on Blue Origin vs. SpaceX lunar lander fight, with dark spots

Redacted variations of paperwork referring to Blue Origin’s federal lawsuit in opposition to the federal authorities and SpaceX lay out additional particulars concerning the dispute over a multibillion-dollar NASA lunar lander contract, however the particulars which can be overlooked are arguably simply as intriguing.

Right this moment the U.S. Court of Federal Appeals launched the 59-page text of the Blue Origin-led industry consortium’s complaint, which was filed in August. The courtroom additionally shared redacted responses from SpaceX.

The filings focus on NASA’s April resolution to award SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to develop its Starship super-rocket because the touchdown system for the Artemis program’s first crewed journey to the lunar floor, deliberate for as early as 2024.

On the time, NASA stated that SpaceX’s proposal was technically superior to the ideas supplied by Blue Origin and its companions — Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper — and by one other competitor, Dynetics. SpaceX had the low bid, with Blue Origin’s crew proposing $5.9 billion for its touchdown system. Draper’s proposal was much more costly.

The unique hope was that NASA would possibly make a number of awards, within the curiosity of selling competitors and having a Plan B. However house company officers stated Congress appropriated solely sufficient cash to make one award.

In a protest filed with the Authorities Accountability Workplace, Blue Origin complained that NASA didn’t consider the proposals correctly, and that SpaceX was given an opportunity to restructure its bid to suit NASA’s funds. The GAO largely sided with NASA and SpaceX in a ruling that allow the contract award stand, however then Blue Origin took the dispute to federal courtroom.

Blue Origin’s lawsuit touches on the aforementioned speaking factors, but it surely primarily focuses on waivers that NASA issued referring to “supporting spacecraft” which can be apparently utilized in connection with SpaceX’s touchdown system. The main points about these supporting spacecraft had been blacked out by the courtroom.

The lawsuit argues that issuing the waivers for particular person flight readiness evaluations and “different evaluate necessities” for the supporting spacecraft gave SpaceX an unfair benefit within the competitors. “Blue Origin and Dynetics didn’t get such an opportunity to compete with waived necessities the Company afforded to SpaceX,” it says. “Had it had such a possibility, Blue Origin would have been capable of suggest a considerably cheaper price…”

So what’s the supporting spacecraft? References to SpaceX’s moon-landing Starship and a tanker model of the identical spacecraft that may be used for in-flight refueling had been left unredacted — so these most likely aren’t at challenge by way of confidentiality.

Blue Origin calls on the courtroom to challenge an order that may droop SpaceX’s work on the lunar lander contract and provides the opponents an equal likelihood to debate their proposals with NASA. If the order is issued as proposed by Blue Origin, the opponents would ship “remaining proposal revisions” to NASA, and house company officers would make a brand new award willpower.

In one of its responses to the complaint, SpaceX says Blue Origin is relying on a “flawed interpretation” of NASA’s solicitation — an interpretation that was “sadly adopted by GAO” in its ruling.

SpaceX additionally says the unredacted model of Blue Origin’s criticism ought to stay sealed as a result of it will disclose SpaceX’s proprietary and confidential info. The decide within the case, Richard Hertling, agreed with SpaceX on the redaction challenge.

The courtroom is predicted to listen to oral arguments in October, with an eye fixed towards issuing a ruling by early November. Within the meantime, NASA has granted a total of $146 million in fixed-price awards to Blue Origin, SpaceX, Dynetics, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman via a follow-up program aimed toward boosting the house company’s lunar touchdown capabilities.

Replace: In a tweet, The Washington Publish’s Christian Davenport handed alongside info from a SpaceX white paper offering extra particulars disputing Blue Origin’s claims within the criticism about flight readiness evaluations, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk weighed in via Twitter as properly:

Here is the related part of the SpaceX white paper refuting the declare that they will not do Flight Readiness Evaluations of Starship HLS launches. It additionally factors out that they’ve a monitor file of 130 profitable orbital launches, together with with crew and very important nat sec satellites.

— Christian Davenport (@wapodavenport) September 22, 2021

We all the time do flight readiness evaluations! This argument is senseless.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 22, 2021

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