Blue Origin Loses GAO Appeal Over Pad 39A Bid Process

Launch Pad 39A with the space shuttle Endeavour. (Credit: NASA)
Launch Pad 39A with the space shuttle Endeavour. (Credit: NASA)

Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin has lost a round in his battle with SpaceX’s Elon Musk over who will control former space shuttle launch Pad 39A in Florida.

In a 12-page decision, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has denied a protest by Blue Origin over the approach NASA is taking to commercialize the former space shuttle launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center.

Blue Origin has bid to lease the pad to accommodate multiple launch providers flying different rockets. Rival SpaceX has proposed the exclusive use of the pad for its Falcon family of rockets.

In its protest, Blue Origin claimed the wording of NASA’s solicitation for a five-year lease on Pad 39A favors the use of the pad by multiple launch providers over an exclusive use arrangement.

The company cited public remarks by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in which he said the agency would actually prefer to have the other former shuttle launch facility, Pad 39B, as a multi-use facility. That pad is being prepared for flights of the Space Launch System (SLS).

Based on Bolden’s remarks, Blue Origin argued that NASA was going to evaluate the two bids for Pad 39A in a way that was inconsistent with the solicitation, which it claims favors a multi-use approach.

In its decision, GAO sided with NASA, which argues that the solicitation contains no preference on the use of the facility one way or the other. The document merely asks bidders to explain their reasons for selecting one approach instead of the other and how they would manage the facility.

The GAO also noted NASA’s claim that Bolden’s remarks were irrelevant to the selection process.

“NASA further concluded that the comments of the NASA Administrator would have no effect or influence on the selection process for the successful concern under the AFP,” the report reads.

NASA has yet to make a decision about the launch pad.