Blue Origin protested NASA's SpaceX contract and the GAO finally has a response

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has published its response to Blue Origin's and Dynetics' protests over the lunar lander contract granted by NASA to competitor SpaceX. The protests were filed in late April, resulting in NASA temporarily pausing the lunar lander contract given to SpaceX while the GAO resolved the two formal protests.READ: NASA pauses SpaceX lunar lander contract amid competitor outcry

The GAO's statement comes from its Managing Associate General Counsel for Procurement Law Kenneth E. Patton. According to the GAO, the protests included allegations that NASA needed to award multiple contracts in line with its announced "preference for multiple awards."

The statement sheds light on why NASA ended up only selecting SpaceX for its human landing system (HLS) demonstration mission. The issue boiled down to the funds that were available, with the GAO explaining:

NASA made award to SpaceX for a total evaluated price of $2,941,394,557. After noting that SpaceX submitted the lowest-priced proposal with the highest rating, and that the offers submitted by Blue Origin and Dynetics were significantly higher in price, NASA also concluded that the agency lacked the necessary funding to make more than one award.

The GAO goes on to cite other complaints made in the two protests, addressing and dismissing each one in turn with the conclusion that "NASA did not violate procurement law or regulation when it devices to make only one award."

This is a blow for both companies that comes only days after Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos published an open letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson regarding the matter. In it, Bezos addressed the apparent funding matters behind the decision, noting that the company would cover up to $2 billion in costs, among other things. NASA has not yet responded to that letter, at least not publicly.

Image via Blue Origin