Last week, SpaceX sued the US government for an unknown federal contract that it did not receive – and now the competitors of the Blue Origin company and the United Launch Alliance want to intervene in the lawsuit. The two companies believe that SpaceX is protesting against a combined $ 2 billion award that the US Air Force gave to Blue Origin, ULA and Northrop Grumman last October to develop new missiles for the Air Force. SpaceX did not receive any money at the time and now it is possible that the company wants to change that.
The prizes were part of a coveted Air Force initiative known as the Launch Service Agreement program, aimed at developing new US missiles that can orbit military satellites. For decades, the Air Force has been dependent on the Atlas V rocket of the United Launch Alliance, which is powered by the Russian RD-180. But in the aftermath of Russia & # 39; s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the Ministry of Defense has tried to eliminate its dependence on Russian missile technology for national security missions.
In October, the Air Force granted the United Launch Alliance $ 967 million to support the development of a new rocket called Vulcan, and Northrup Grumman received more than $ 791 million for her new rocket the OmegA. Blue Origin also received $ 500 million to help develop its future rocket, New Glenn. Surprisingly, SpaceX & # 39; s Starship of the next generation was omitted.
The money for the LSA program is only intended to accelerate the development of missiles and does not mean that these three companies will be guaranteed to launch national security packages in the coming years. Ultimately, the Air Force will select two companies to launch all national security contracts awarded between the fiscal year 2020 and 2024, including missions starting until 2027. At the beginning of May, the Air Force made a final request for proposals from rocket companies to fight for this initiative, known as Launch Services Procurement. All LSA suppliers can apply, and so can SpaceX, as it is already certified to launch national security charges.
It is unclear why SpaceX would protest against the LSA awards eight months later, when the company can still compete in the next phase of the program. Even CEO Elon Musk admitted that SpaceX & # 39; s proposal for LSA "had missed the target", according to a report from the Pentagon inspector general. SpaceX too requested to seal his recent trial, because it contains "confidential and proprietary information and source selection data that is not suitable for release to the public."
But filed in their motions with the United States Court of Federal Claims, both Blue Origin and United Launch Services, a subsidiary of ULA, claim that the protest is certainly about the LSA awards and that they must be able to intervene to protect their rights and interests as winners. Blue Origin claims that "SpaceX has challenged government behavior under the LSA transaction" and that SpaceX & # 39; s protest could influence Blue Origin's chances in the second phase of the program.
Blue Origin has already done it expressed concern about the air force competition, arguing that the military should postpone the last two selections until 2021. Blue Origin claimed that choosing winners SpaceX and ULA would now give an advantage as the current providers of national security launches, and that ultimately more than two companies should be chosen. (It is worth noting that if Blue Origin is not chosen as one of the last two, the company will not receive the rest of the money from its LSA award.)
SpaceX has previously filed protests against the US government, particularly in 2014 at protest against a major national security launch contract given to ULA on which SpaceX was not allowed to bid. SpaceX also filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Office in February about a launch contract for a NASA mission called Lucy that also went to ULA. SpaceX finally dropped that protest.