Air Force rocket awards ‘wrongly’ gave billions to Blue Origin, ULA, Northrop Grumman

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The booster of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lands on the company’s barge after launching the Spaceflight SSO-A mission.

SpaceX

Elon Musk’s SpaceX, in a previously secret lawsuit revealed on Wednesday, challenged the Air Force awarding $2.3 billion in rocket development contracts last year to competitors Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman and United Launch Alliance, which is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

SpaceX filed the complaint on Friday but asked that the U.S. Court of Federal Claims keep the motion “under seal,” saying that “the proceedings in this matter will involve SpaceX’s proprietary proposal information and source selection information that must be protected to safeguard the competitive process.” On Wednesday, a redacted version of the full 79-page complaint was posted on the federal court’s public system.

The full SpaceX complaint alleges that the Air Force “wrongly awarded” the funds “to a portfolio of three unproven rockets based on unstated metrics.” Under the Launch Service Agreement (LSA) program, the Air Force awarded three SpaceX competitors each funding to develop new launch systems. The LSA awards granted $500 million to Blue Origin for its New Glenn rocket, $792 million to Northrop Grumman for its OmegA rocket and $967 million to ULA for the Vulcan Centaur rocket.

“By any reasonable measure, SpaceX earned a place in the LSA portfolio,” the complaint said.

SpaceX said it bid its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, the former of which has flown multiple national security missions. SpaceX also bid its Starship rocket system, which is early in development, but only for “one or two” missions that were scheduled “to launch no earlier than late 2025.”

However, SpaceX alleges that the Air Force “determined that SpaceX’s one development launch vehicle,” or Starship, “rendered the entire SpaceX portfolio” as “high risk.” 

Read the redacted complaint here.

WATCH: How SpaceX started and what’s next for Elon Musk’s Mars dream



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