Jeff Bezos offers NASA billions for Blue Origin favor

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Jeff Bezos has sent an open letter to NASA administrator Bill Nelson offering to help the agency cover over $2 billion in costs in exchange for awarding a second Human Landing System (HLS) contract to Blue Origin. 

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In April, NASA awarded Elon Musk's SpaceX a $2.89 billion contract for the development of the first commercial human lander that will land Artemis program astronauts on the moon in 2024. The agency originally intended to offer multiple HLS contracts, but cited budgetary restraints for the reversal in its decision.

"Given NASA’s current and projected HLS budgets, it is my assessment that such negotiations with Blue Origin, if opened, would not be in good faith," Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, wrote in a source selection statement. "After accounting for a contract award to SpaceX, the amount of remaining available funding is so insubstantial that, in my opinion, NASA cannot reasonably ask Blue Origin to lower its price for the scope of work it has proposed to a figure that would potentially enable NASA to afford making a contract award to Blue Origin."

Blue Origin argues that SpaceX was the only HLS bidder to be offered the opportunity to "revise their price and funding profile."

"That was a mistake, it was unusual, and it was a missed opportunity. But it is not too late to remedy," Bezos said. "We stand ready to help NASA moderate its technical risks and solve its budgetary constraints and put the Artemis Program back on a more competitive, credible, and sustainable path. Our Appendix H HLS contract is still open and can be amended."

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According to the letter Monday, the aerospace company says it will "bridge the HLS budgetary funding shortfall" by waiving all payments in the current and next two government fiscal years by up to $2 billion. 

"This offer is not a deferral, but is an outright and permanent waiver of those payments," Bezos wrote. "This offer provides time for government appropriation actions to catch up."

At its own expense, Blue Origin will also contribute to the development and launch of a pathfinder mission to low-Earth orbit of the lunar descent in an effort to "further retire development and schedule risks" in addition to an uncrewed lunar lander demonstration that was already part of the company's "baseline plan."

"This contribution to the program is above and beyond the over $1B of corporate contribution cited in our Option A proposal that funds items such as our privately developed BE-7 lunar lander engine and indefinite storage of liquid hydrogen in space," the letter continues.

Lastly, Blue Origin says it will accept a firm, fixed-priced contract for the work, "cover any system development cost overruns" and "shield NASA from partner cost escalation concerns."

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Without competition, Blue Origin warns NASA's short-term and long-term lunar ambitions will be delayed, ultimately cost more, and "won’t serve the national interest."  

"If NASA has different ideas about what would best facilitate getting back to true competition now, we are ready and willing to discuss them," Blue Origin added 

A spokesperson for NASA did not immediately return FOX Business' request for comment on the letter.

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According to SpaceNews.com, Nelson previously told congressional appropriators in May that the agency was seeking $5.4 billion for the Human Landing System in order to fund competition for future lander missions.

While the House appropriations committee has expressed concern about NASA’s decision to select only one contractor, it has only allocated $1.345 billion for HLS in its Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for fiscal 2022.

In response to the sole selection of SpaceX, Blue Origin and the National Team have filed a 50-page protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO). GAO has an Aug. 4 deadline to rule on the protest.

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