Blue Origin’s legal battle is not affecting SpaceX’s Starship Program.
According to court filings, SpaceX’s $3 million contracts to build a lunar landing platform for NASA was placed on hold on Thursday. Blue Origin sued Jeff Bezos over the award. NASA agreed to temporarily suspend its contract until November 1, while the US Court of Federal Claims (where Blue Origin filed suit) decides the case.
According to someone familiar with SpaceX’s sealed files, Blue Origin asked the court for a pause in SpaceX’s contract. This was to allow the litigation to continue. NASA was eager to land astronauts at the Moon in 2024 and agreed to stop SpaceX’s contract if all parties agreed to an “expedited litigation schedule that ends on November 1,” a spokesperson for the agency stated. “NASA officials continue to work with the Department of Justice in reviewing the details of the case, and we look forward to a prompt resolution of this matter.”
The judge stated that oral arguments would be held on October 14. The judge was informed that SpaceX intervened in the lawsuit to “ensure the court has an accurate and complete picture” of the protest.
Blue Origin sued NASA last Wednesday over NASA’s April decision not to select SpaceX’s Starship rocket systems for its first human lunar landing since 1972. NASA had stated it could choose between two companies to receive the award but chose one, despite receiving less funding from Congress. Blue Origin lodged a sealed complaint with the court weeks after the Government Accountability Office rejected its initial protest. The April protest put SpaceX’s lunar landing contract on hold for 95 days.
The decision to give the contract to Elon Musk‘s SpaceX over proposals from Blue Origin and Dynetics unleashed a campaign from Blue Origin to publicly cast SpaceX’s Starship system as unsafe and lobby Congress for more NASA funding that could convince the agency to pick a second company. Blue Origin’s failed protest at the GAO claimed that NASA had violated contracting law. It also claimed that the agency should have cancelled or modified the program’s terms when it realized it would not have enough money to fund two separate contracts. The GAO also claimed that NASA unfairly negotiated SpaceX’s terms before it awarded the contract and did not give Dynetics or Blue Origin the same opportunity. Both arguments were rejected by the GAO, which backed NASA’s legal decision.
SpaceX has made rapid progress on its Starship program despite the protests by Blue Origin. The majority of the funds used to move the program forward were private. The first Starship prototype bound for orbit — a key development milestone for SpaceX — should be ready for launch “in a few weeks,” Musk tweeted on August 14. The rocket’s launch is not possible until the Federal Aviation Administration completes a thorough environmental review at SpaceX’s launch location in Boca Chica (Texas), the company’s central Starship hub.