Jeff Bezos‘s space firm Blue Origin has sued Nasa for awarding a $2.9bn (£2.1bn) lunar lander contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Gatekeepers News reports that the development follows the decision made in April to give the deal to one company and not two as expected, due to the shortfall in funding.
Blue Origin, in a court filing on Friday, said it believes that two providers were needed to build the landing system, which will carry astronauts down to the Moon’s surface as early as 2024.
The former Amazon boss’s firm also accused Nasa of “unlawful and improper evaluation” of its proposals during the tender process.
“We firmly believe that the issues identified in this procurement and its outcomes must be addressed to restore fairness, create competition and ensure a safe return to the Moon for America,” Blue Origin said.
Nasa’s human exploration chief, Kathy Lueders had admitted that the space agency’s current budget can’t allow it to pick two companies. That was after Congress approved only $850m of the $3.3bn it requested for the project.
Nasa also cited the established record of orbital missions by Elon Musk’s SpaceX firm as a factor in the award. SpaceX’s bid was the lowest-priced by some distance.
Gatekeepers News reports that Bezos had in July offered to cover up to $2bn of Nasa’s costs in order to be reconsidered for the contract, but his offer was rejected.
Meanwhile, the US watchdog, Government Accountability Office (GAO), has rebuffed a complaint from Blue Origin and defence contractor Dynetic, saying that Nasa had not “acted improperly” in handing the contract to just one firm.
Nasa is expected to file a response to the legal action by 12 October. SpaceX is yet to comment on the lawsuit.