An artist’s conception shows Blue Origin’s future New Glenn rocket, which is currently due to have its first flight in 2021. (Blue Origin Illustration)
Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture is protesting the rules of the game for awarding future national security launch contracts, while continuing to play against SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Northrop Grumman.
All four companies have submitted bids in the second phase of an Air Force competition aimed at selecting vendors for launches in the 2022-2026 time frame.
In the first phase of the competition, the Air Force said it would set aside as much as $2.3 billion to support the development of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket, ULA’s Vulcan rocket and Northrop Grumman’s OmegA rocket. All those rockets are scheduled to enter service in the 2021 time frame.
However, the Air Force said it would reduce the field to two companies next year. Moreover, SpaceX – which didn’t qualify for development funds in Phase 1 – is joining the field for Phase 2 with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, both of which are already flying.
In May, SpaceX filed a lawsuit against the federal government, complaining that it was unfairly left ...