In a letter penned by Jeff Bezos, the former Amazon CEO to NASA was a proposal to an arrangement, his space flight company, Blue Origin, will waive up to $2 billion in fees if NASA awards Blue Origin a joint contract, making the company an additional party in its mission to take humans to the moon.
“NASA veered from its original dual-source acquisition strategy due to perceived near-term budgetary issues, and this offer removes that obstacle,” Bezos wrote in an open letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
“This offer is not a deferral, but is an outright and permanent waiver of those payments. This offer provides time for government appropriation actions to catch up,” continued the letter.
When Elon Musk’s company was selected over his, Bezos claimed that “unfair advantage” has been given to the former. Blue Origin had previously filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office, challenging NASA’s decision. A ruling on that complaint by the watchdog office can be expected as early as next week.
“Instead of this single source approach, NASA should embrace its original strategy of competition,” said Bezos. “Without competition, a short time into the contract, NASA will find itself with limited options as it attempts to negotiate missed deadlines, design changes, and cost overruns.”
Bezos’ letter is the latest move in his battle with fellow tycoon Elon Musk. In April, NASA awarded a $2.9 billion lunar-landing contract to Musk’s SpaceX. That deal come under the agency’s Artemis program, which aims to work with private space companies to put people back on the Moon by 2024, establishing a “long-term presence” there by 2028.
“Bezos is forgoing present profitability for the future domination and monopolisation of space,” said Scott Turman, a former software engineer at NASA. “This is simply a 2-billion-dollar toe in the door that only someone like him could afford in the first place.”
Bezos’ move comes at an important juncture in the race between private companies to dominate space. On July 11, Virgin Galactic’s billionaire founder Richard Branson beat Bezos to space, becoming the first entrepreneur to make it there on a rocket he helped fund. Ten days later, Bezos one-upped Branson on his own space adventure, with his rocket flying some 10 miles higher than Branson’s. Microsoft billionaire Charles Simonyi and Cirque du Soleil billionaire Guy Laliberte travelled to space more than a decade ago, but on Russian-made rockets.