Billionaire American entrepreneur Jeff Bezos walks with Blue Origin president and CEO Bob Smith after Bezos flew on the company’s inaugural flight to the shores of space, in the nearby city of Van Horn, Texas, July 20 2021 US.
Joe Skipper | Reuters
Jeff Bezos’ space company remains on the offensive criticizing NASA’s decision to award Elon Musk’s SpaceX with the only contract to build a vehicle to land astronauts on the moon, despite the government’s denial last week the Blue Origin protest.
In an infographic posted on the Blue Origin site and viewed Wednesday, the company called SpaceX with Starship to transport NASA astronauts to the lunar surface an “immensely complex and high-risk” approach. Blue Origin refers to a criticism that NASA officials have made in evaluating Starship for the luner lander program.
“There are an unprecedented number of technologies, developments and operations that have never been done before for Starship to land on the Moon,” Blue Origin wrote.
Last Friday, the U.S. Government’s Accountability Office denied NASA’s Blue Origin protest awarding SpaceX with a $ 2.9 billion contract in the Human Landing System program. In three one page documents, Blue Origin described NASA’s decision as “wrong for America’s leadership in space” and reiterated its previous criticism that the space agency “has faced inconsistent and unfair competition” – even if the congressional watchdog said NASA didn’t.
“NASA has made a faulty acquisition and has ignored the significant risks of a single-vendor model,” Blue Origin wrote.
The company wants NASA to award a second contract in the original framework of the acquisition of the Human Landing System. While NASA has said it will offer future contracts under HLS through lunar exploration transportation service awards, these contracts are expected to cost $ 45 million or less each.
Criticism of Starship
The Starship SN15 shuttle prototype launches from Boca Chica, Texas.
The Starship SN15 rocket prototype hit the company’s landing on May 5, 2021, in Boca Chica, Texas.
Blue Origin made additional technical comparisons, noting that SpaceX’s plan requires more than 10 Starship launches to land once on the moon and must be refueled into orbit, “a process that has never been done before.”
Finally, Blue Origin compared the height of the astronaut’s exit doors. The Starship exit is 126 meters from the ground, and conceptually uses an elevator to bring the astronauts to the surface, while the Blue Origin lander is 32 meters from the ground and requires the crew to leave a long ladder.
A comparison that Blue Origin did not make was in terms of cost. NASA cited cost as a major factor in its decision to select only one winner in the Human Landing System, because Congress has allocated to the agency a fraction of its requested budget for the program. SpaceX offered $ 2.9 billion, while Blue Origin was roughly double that to $ 5.99 billion.
In the first round of Human Landing System contracts, NASA distributed nearly $ 1 billion in prizes for concept development – with SpaceX receiving $ 135 million, Dynetics receiving $ 253 million and Blue Origin receiving 579 million dollars.
A crew of the crew’s lander vehicle at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in August 2020.
Bezos initially unveiled a lunar lander called Blue Moon in May 2019, before pivoting next year to partner with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper on a different concept for the Human Landing System. While the company has not tested any spacecraft in orbit, its partners have done so – a point Blue Origin emphasized by saying that its “lunar lander” system is entirely built on heritage systems and proven technologies that fly today. “
For its part, Blue Origin exploits the rocket engine and landing technologies is being refined with its New Shepard suborbital space tourism missile over the course of 16 flights.
Blue Origin also emphasized that its approach was simpler than that of SpaceX, since Bezos’ lander “requires only three launches” and has “much less rendezvous in space.”
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