NASA’s $ 10 Billion Senate Fund Not a ‘Rescue’ for Blue Origin
The Senate wants to give NASA additional funds to maintain the objectives of a program that relies on private companies. Blue Origin is just one of those companies.
The United States Senate spent much of May working on the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, commonly known as the Endless Frontier Law, a bill intended to increase scientific funding for the federal government. The Senate passed it on June 8, which means it will then pass to the House of Representatives.
A section of the bill, which would give NASA $ 10 billion in funding for manned space exploration, has been criticized because of the perceived recipient of the funding: Blue Origin, a space exploration company owned by the billionaire founder of ‘Amazon Jeff Bezos.
Senator Bernie Sanders told the media at the end of May, “It doesn’t make much sense to me that we are providing billions of dollars to a company owned by the richest guy in America.” Viral social media posts echoed his complaints, calling the section a “rescue” for Blue Origin.
Is the US Senate trying to give Blue Origin, owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, a $ 10 billion bailout?
No. Although NASA recently chose SpaceX over Blue Origin and another company to receive funding for the development of a human lunar lander, NASA said in its decision that it wanted to fund two companies but did not didn’t even have the budget to fund one without negotiating the price down. .
The Senate bill responds to this, allocating enough funds for NASA to award a second contract. Blue Origin is probably the frontrunner for this contract, but it’s not guaranteed. Even if Blue Origin wins the contract, the $ 10 billion allocated to NASA is not just for this contract and therefore would not all go to Blue Origin.
WHAT WE FOUND
The financing bill was passed by the Senate along with the rest of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act 2021. The section that has been called the “bailout” for Blue Origin is between pages 499 and 501 the invoice’s.
It grants NASA more than $ 10 billion over the next five years for the agency’s Artemis program and demands that NASA maintain “competitiveness within the human landing system program by funding the design, the development, testing and evaluation for no less than 2 entities ”. It also states that NASA cannot “modify, terminate or reverse any selection decisions or awards made under the Human Landing System program that were announced prior to the date of this division’s promulgation.”
that of NASA Artemis program is a partnership with private companies with the aim of sending Americans to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo missions (1961-1972).
In mid-April, NASA announced he had awarded SpaceX a contract with Blue Origin and Dynetics to further develop the first commercial human lander to be used in the Artemis program. The contract award was $ 2.89 billion.
But in a document explaining how and why NASA made its decision, NASA has indicated that it does not want to limit itself to awarding a single contract.
“This decision was based on NASA’s long-standing Option A acquisition strategy of awarding two Option A contracts,” wrote Kathryn Lueders, NASA’s source selection authority. “While the Agency’s desire to preserve a competitive environment remains at this stage of the [Human Landing System] Schedule, at the initial prices and phased-in milestone payments offered by each of the Option A offerors, NASA’s current year budget did not support even a single Option A grant.
According to Lueders, this led NASA to go ahead with the lowest bid, SpaceX, to negotiate the price at something that could be closer to NASA’s budget. According to a Blue Origin repository, their contract was valued at $ 5.99 billion, more than double SpaceX’s revised bid.
In other words, NASA didn’t have the budget to offer contracts to two different companies, even if it wanted to. So he chose the lowest bidder, SpaceX, as his starting point. But the agency has not completely given up on making a second contract possible.
NASA first asked increased funding for the Artemis program before the bill is presented to the Senate. The agency has specified its desire to “maintain competition to lower the cost and reduce the risk” for future partnerships in a more detailed request later. It’s a strategy that NASA has Already used in business partnerships.
The Senate bill allocates $ 10 billion to NASA over the next five years for the “human landing system program.” This means that the money is also intended for future human landing system contracts, which NASA has previously indicated he may need.
So even if Blue Origin wins the deal, which isn’t guaranteed, it won’t get the full $ 10 billion.
The details of the bill are not necessarily final yet. It then moves on to the House of Representatives, which can make changes before passing it with a vote. Once he steps into the House, he goes to President Biden’s office to have his signature become law.
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