Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin has won a protest challenging the existing structure of the US Air Force’s military space launch procurement process.
The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustained a protest filed by Blue Origin in August contending that the current rules in the ongoing National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement competition are flawed.
The main contention was that the terms of the request for proposals (RFP) do not allow for a level playing field and favour the incumbents, United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX.
The USAF is expected to downselect two firms next year. Four companies, including Northrop Grumman, Blue Origin, SpaceX and ULA are vying for the contracts expected to be worth billions of dollars.
The winners will be responsible for around 34 defence satellite launches between 2022 and 2027.
In a statement, the GAO said: “GAO sustained the protest, finding that the RFP’s basis for award is inconsistent with applicable procurement law and regulation, and otherwise unreasonable.
“According to the RFP, the government will make the two awards by deciding which combination of two independently developed proposals offers the best value to the government.
“This methodology, as described by the agency, however, does not provide a reasonable, common basis on which offerors will be expected to compete and have their proposals evaluated. GAO recommends that the agency amend the solicitation.”
Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith was quoted by media sources as saying: “This is an important mission to Blue Origin, and we remain committed to our long-term partnership with the Air Force and to working with them as they address the GAO’s recommendations.”
However, GAO did not sustain complaints related to other provisions of the solicitation.
Meanwhile, the airforce stated that it is reviewing the findings of GAO.