GAO rejects Blue Origin protest of NASA lunar lander contract award

Protests filed by Blue Origin and Dynetics to the Government Accountability Office protesting the awarding of a single Artemis lunar lander contract have been denied.
A GAO ruling has found that NASA did not violate any procurement law or regulation when only awarding SpaceX with an Artemis lunar lander contract | Image credit: SpaceX

Updated with NASA and Dynetics statements.

The US Government Accountability Office has rejected claims filed by Blue Origin and Dynetics protesting the awarding of a single NASA lunar lander contract to SpaceX.

In a statement released July 30 outlining its decision, the GAO stated that NASA had not violated any procurement law or regulation by selecting to make only one lunar lander contract award. Additionally, the statement went on to conclude that the agency’s evaluations of the different proposals were reasonable and consistent with applicable law, and the announcement’s terms.

Despite finding almost exclusively for NASA and SpaceX, the GAO’s decision did include one caveat. The GAO agreed with Blue Origin and Dynetics that NASA has waived a mandatory solicitation requirement for SpaceX only. However, it was ultimately concluded that this did not rise to a legitimate prejudice against the other proposals.

In response to the decision, Blue Origin countered stating that the GAO was fundamentally handicapped due to “their limited jurisdiction.” The Blue Origin statement went on to imply that it would continue to push Congress to provide additional funding and override NASA’s decision.

In a statement released by NASA on July 30, the agency stated that the decision would enable it to establish a timeline for humankind’s return to the Moon.

“The decision enables NASA to award the contract that will ultimately result in the first crewed demonstration landing on the surface of the Moon under NASA’s Artemis plan,” said the NASA statement. “Importantly, the GAO’s decision will allow NASA and SpaceX to establish a timeline for the first crewed landing on the Moon in more than 50 years.”

In a short statement released by Dynetics, the company expressed disappointment at the findings of the GAO. However, the company pledged to continue work on its lunar lander with an eye on competing for NASA’s recently announced Lunar Exploration Transportation Services opportunity.

In anticipation of the GAO’s decision, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos penned an open letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson offering the agency over $2 billion in waived fees to secure a lunar lander contract. During a press conference for the second uncrewed Boeing Starliner demonstration mission on July 29, Nelson declined to comment on Blue Origin’s proposal.

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.