Earlier this year, NASA picked SpaceX to build the lander that will return astronauts to the moon for the first time in more than 50 years.
Under the nearly $3 billion contract, Elon Musk’s company would propel the mission using one of its new rocketships, known as the Starship, which is eventually intended to bring humans to Mars.
But Musk’s chief rival in the private spaceflight game has other ideas.
The two companies that lost out on the lunar lander contract — Dynetics Inc. and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin — appealed the decision to federal officials, arguing that their bids were not scored correctly and that NASA should have handed out multiple contracts for the effort.
After the Government Accountability Office rejected that overture, Blue Origin decided to take things further. Reuters reports that Blue Origin is suing the federal government in hopes of addressing what it says are “fundamental” flaws in the bidding process.
The company’s filing is under seal, but Blue Origin said it identified problems that must be addressed in order to preserve fairness, competition and “ensure a safe return to the moon for America."
NASA said it was reviewing the matter; its legal response is due in mid-October.
The GAO, in its ruling, said NASA was within its rights to award just a single contract, and that SpaceX had the highest rating at a significantly lower price — though Blue Origin contends the company was unfairly allowed to revise its pricing. Bezos had also offered to personally offset $2 billion of NASA funding.
The contract decision, meanwhile, has already generated fallout for Blue Origin. Business Insider reports that a top engineer on its lander program has departed the company to work for SpaceX.