The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) is supporting privately funded space company Blue Origin in its legal battle with the Air Force, according to Reuters. The dispute relates to the multi-billion contest Launch Services Procurement (LSP) Phase 2 launched in May 2019.
At the moment of launch the exact contract value was not revealed. The Air Force announced that the two winners will be responsible for the Pentagon's next 34 launches of defence satellites from 2022 to 2027.
Blue Origin, owned by billionaire and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, was among the companies who submitted bids for the contracts by the Air Force’s proposal deadline, August 1, 2019. The other three companies were Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance, and SpaceX.
The company claimed that the Air Force programme “contains a number of flaws preventing offerers from intelligently preparing their proposals” and “squashes nascent competition by locking out non-selected providers for over five years”.
More recently, the GAO agreed that the Air Force's basis for award is not compatible with applicable procurement law and regulation. The regulator recommended the military agency to change the rules of the solicitation.
If the Air Force refuses to follow the recommendation, it would be the first disagreement in four years. In this case the US Congress would be obliged to intervene in the conflict.
According to Reuters, the Air Force does not plan to revise the terms of LSP contract, as it believes its approach is open for competition.
This is not the first time that the company affiliated with Bezos is pushed out of state contracts. In November, Amazon challenged the Pentagon's decision to grant a $10bn (£7.8bn, €9.1bn) cloud contract to Microsoft.