Jeff Bezos is offering NASA at least a $ 2 billion discount to give its space company a profitable human lunar landing system that rival Elon Muskin SpaceX won earlier this year. Bezos ’new offer is the latest in an increasing effort to win the Blue Origin agreement.
Inside something Monday morning letter To NASA chief Bill Nelson, Bezos said permanently waive up to $ 2 billion in contract payments over the first two years if NASA adds Blue Origin’s Blue Moon moon counter to a key phase in the agency’s Human Landing System program, which requires the first humans to land on the moon for decades. In addition to this, Blue Origin is funding the launch of the Blue Moon test itself into a low-Earth orbit, probably worth hundreds of millions. “I think this task is important,” Bezos said. “I am honored to offer these donations and I am grateful to be in a financial position to do so.”
NASA did not immediately return the request for comment. The complaint is made a week before the watchdog The government’s responsible agency is set to decide on a formal protest against NASA’s SpaceX award, which Blue Origin submitted this spring. “NASA just needs to take advantage of this offer and change the deal,” Bezos said.
It’s not quite that simple, he says Lori Garver, a former NASA assistant in charge of overseeing the start of NASA’s commercial crew program. Bezos ’offer to the agency shouldn’t be ignored, Garver said, but it also may not work the way Blue Origin wants it to. “I think this is an overall positive sign, but it shouldn’t affect current awards or strategy,” he said.
It all started in April when NASA announced that he had gone with SpaceX’s Starship system rafts the first U.S. group of people to the moon for nearly half a century by 2024, shelving proposals from Blue Origin and another provider, Dynetics. These attempts are still underway in the upcoming Moon race, which is still ongoing, but NASA argued that congressional limited funds only allowed the agency to select one contractor: SpaceX.
Eventually bringing in competing contractors, Garver says, “it was always a plan, and it’s good to know that we now have our own skin in the game, too.” Nonetheless, he believes it is unlikely that the new offer will change NASA’s view of the current award. Agency staff are concerned that making a decision by NASA to SpaceX to enter into a solitary contract could create new legal problems. “NASA can’t just ‘take bids’ because funding is being offered. There’s nothing stopping Blue from moving forward with its own money to get a better position to win something in the next round,” Garver says.
In his letter, Bezos said the $ 2 billion offer would “fix HLS’s budget shortfall” and “get the program back on track right now,” citing NASA’s fast 2024 Moonshot deadline and the agency’s continuing need for more Artemis funding. Blue Origin’s objection to NASA’s decision suspended SpaceX’s $ 3 billion NASA contract while GAO decides the facts of the case. The deadline for GAO’s decision is August 2 or next Monday. That decision could recommend – but not force – NASA to restart the award program and reconsider its decision, or reject Blue Origin’s protests and continue NASA’s current plan.
After filing the protest, Blue Origin started the strategy The goal is to get NASA to assure its HLS decision of “corrective action” before GAO announces its decision. Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith lato storm Capitol in May, and GAO’s lengthy protest process gave Blue Origin lobbyists time to demand legislation that would allow NASA to spend $ 10 billion more on its HLS program, part of which could hypothetically help fund the company’s lunar landers. But both tips of their strategy may not follow as planned. The change passed by the Senate, which is being debated in Parliament, was dubbed by critics as “Bezos Bailout.” And GAO demonstrations are rarely successful.
Bezos ’$ 2 billion discount offer is the company’s latest – and arguably most desperate – attempt to give NASA a reason to choose Blue Origin’s Blue Moon proposal. But that’s not Bezos ’first personal offer. In 2019, Bezos met with the blatant revelation of Blue Origin’s Blue Moon calculator in Washington DC, with then-NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine at the agency’s headquarters to offer to pay 30 percent of the cost of the Blue Origin Lunar Lander demonstration mission. that is, about $ 200 million at the time, according to three people familiar with the visit.
After DC was unveiled, Blue Origin assembled a “national team” of partners, including Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. As part of the partnership, Northrop will build a Blue Moon transfer element to help detach the system from the Moon’s orbiting module as it begins its journey to the surface. Blue Origin takes care of the part that puts astronauts on the moon. And Lockheed leads the crew’s flight training and builds a Blue Moon ascent element, a descending part that fires from the surface of the moon to an orbiting space station called the Gateway. Bezos’ Monday letter also promises to “protect NASA from rising cost issues for partners.”