Jeff Bezos isn’t happy with NASA these days, and the timeline for America’s next moon launch could be collateral damage.
Bezos, best known for founding internet giant Amazon, wants his separate space company Blue Origin to get some moon business from the U.S. space agency. Hundreds of millions of dollars in funding are at stake.
Blue Origin Federation filed suit against the U.S. on Friday, seeking to remedy alleged errors in the contract award made to SpaceX to develop the lunar lander for NASA’s scheduled 2024 mission back to the moon. SpaceX was founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Blue Origin and another bidder had an award protest denied at the end of July by the Government Accountability Office. The end of July is also when SpaceX received $300 million out of a projected $3 billion for development of the lunar lander.
The details of the suit are under seal. But Blue Origin has complained that the SpaceX offering is too complicated. Blue Origin could seek a dual-source contract, potentially splitting the funding between two companies. That, along with any court ordered delays in funding, could delay the develop of the lander project.
Blue Origin didn’t address funding questions when asked for comment. It did say, “Blue Origin filed suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in an attempt to remedy the flaws in the acquisition process found in NASA’s Human Landing System.” It added, “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.”
NASA said its officials are currently reviewing details of the suit. In awarding the contract, it cited SpaceX’s proven engine and rocket technologies.
The missed funding, however, shouldn’t cripple Blue Origin in the long run. Bezos has the ability to fund the entity. He’s the richest man in the world with an estimated net worth of more than $190 billion, according to Bloomberg.
Blue Origin and SpaceX are private companies. They have to raise money in the private, not public markets. And most investors can’t invest. But there are a bevy of commercial space companies vying from new business. Astra (ASTR) is a launch services company. Momentous (MNTS) wants to provide logistics services for companies launching things into space and Spire Global (SPIR) is one of those companies launching satellites to sell new space-based earth observation data.
Space investing is still new, and those stocks are volatile. Those three are down about 7% over the past three months, trailing behind the 6% and 3% comparable, respective gains of the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average over the same span.