Billionaire Jeff Bezos is offering NASA a $2 billion discount from his rocket firm Blue Origin if the agency gives his company a contract to build a human lunar landing system.
The contract is for a landing system that could carry astronauts to the surface of the moon as early as 2024. Previously, the contract had been awarded to Blue Origin rival SpaceX, operated by billionaire Elon Musk. Bezos’ offer to cover the costs is latest effort by the Amazon founder to win the contract for Blue Origin.
“Blue Origin will bridge the HLS budgetary funding shortfall by waiving all payments in the current and next two government fiscal years up to $2B to get the program back on track right now. This offer is not a deferral, but is an outright and permanent waiver of those payments,” Bezos wrote in an open letter Monday to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
The offer comes one week before the Government Accountability Office, the congressional watchdog, is set to rule on Blue Origin’s formal protest of NASA’s award to SpaceX for the contract.
A NASA spokesperson told US news site The Verge that the agency was aware of the letter but would not comment further “in order to maintain the integrity of the ongoing procurement process and GAO’s adjudication of this matter.”
At the time of the contract’s award in April, reporting placed its value at $2.9 billion. The award to SpaceX was a surprising one, given NASA’s history of choosing multiple companies to supply contracts in case one fails.
The decision to award the contract to Musk’s company involves the construction of a prototype SpaceX Starship spacecraft that is being tested at the firm’s south Texas facility.
Dynetics, a US-based defense contractor, was also in contention for the contract along with Blue Origin.