Blue Origin, Dynetics see their lunar lander protests grounded

Protests by Blue Origin and Dynetics over the $2.9 billion lunar lander contract that went to SpaceX have been denied as the Government Accountability Office rules NASA did nothing wrong.

The Government Accountability Office found nothing wrong with the way NASA picked SpaceX to build the new lunar lander under a $2.9 billion contract.

GAO has denied protests by other competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics, whose bids NASA deemed too expensive and not as highly rated.

The companies claimed NASA should have opened discussions with all bidders and allow them to amend their proposals, or just cancelled the contract.

NASA's preference going into the source selection to make two awards. But each bid came in higher than NASA expected. The agency concluded it didn’t have the funding to make more than one award.

Blue Origin and Dynetics also challenged the funding rationale given by NASA.

“In denying the protests, GAO first concluded that NASA did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award,” GAO said in a statement announcing its decision.

GAO said the solicitation for the broad agency announcement gave NASA the flexibility to make one, two or no awards.

The agency also dismissed the challenge to how the evaluations were conducted, ruling that NASA’s process was “reasonable.”

One area GAO agreed with the protesters on was how NASA waived one of the requirements for SpaceX, although there was not enough signs in GAO's eyes to show Blue Origin and Dynetics suffered any harm.

The decision is still sealed as NASA and the companies will negotiate a public version.

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos recently made an offer to NASA that the company would cover an additional $2 billion in expected costs if it was awarded a contract.

NASA hasn’t publicly responded to the offer, which is an indicator of how important the contract is to Bezos and Blue Origin.

Bezos also famously just made a trip to space aboard one of his rockets.

Obviously, the space market means a great deal to him and Blue Origin. So it should be no surprise if he takes his arguments over the lunar lander to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. We’ll keep an eye out for that.