Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin hits a standstill over Kennedy Space Center launch pad use

Posted Dec 15, 2013

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced late last week that they have ruled against a challenge to NASA from Blue Origin. Blue Origin is a private space exploration company run by CEO Jeff Bezos. Blue Origin filed a complaint against the GAO over the way that NASA is awarding the rights to use the historic Kennedy Space Center launch pad. Blue Origin claims that the agency is favoring an exclusive contractor approach, but Blue Origin proposed a shared-use approach.

One of the competitors for Launch Pad 39A is believed to be Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the space transportation company founded by Elon Musk. Musk is also known for co-founding PayPal, co-founding and serving as CEO of Tesla Motors, and chairing SolarCity. Initially, SpaceX was seeking exclusive rights, but then decided to pursue a shared approach.

“On Thursday December 12, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest filed by Blue Origin, LLC, of Kent, Washington, challenging NASA?s stated interpretation of an announcement for proposals (AFP) for the lease of Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. Blue Origin maintained in its protest that the AFP provided for a preference in favor of a multi-user (as opposed to an exclusive use) approach to utilizing the launch pad. NASA took the position that neither approach was favored by the AFP. GAO agreed with NASA, and in its decision concluded that there was no preference for either approach, and that the AFP merely requires different information depending upon which approach is being offered,” said the GAO in a statement on December 12th.

Blue Origin and SpaceX both sent proposals to NASA for the rights to conduct operations at Launch Pad 39A. Before NASA made a decision, Blue Origin filed the protest claiming that the multi-user proposal was a better fit for what NASA was intending on doing for the pad.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that he welcomes the use of the launch pad by other companies during a proposed five year lease.

?I think it?s kind of moot whether or not SpaceX gets exclusive or non-exclusive rights for the next five years. I don?t see anyone else using that pad for the next five years,? stated Musk in a Reuters interview back in September.

?I think it?s a bit silly because Blue Origin hasn?t even done a suborbital flight to space, let alone an orbital one,? Musk added. ?If one were to extrapolate their progress, they might reach orbit in five years, but that seems unlikely.?