SpaceX filed a lawsuit today against the US government, taking issue with the way it is conducting its contract bidding process and asking the court to consider the case in secret.
SpaceX Sues Government, Asks for Secrecy over Its Bidding Details
SpaceX is suing the US government over its contract bidding process, asking the court to keep the details of the case secret to protect “confidential and proprietary information and source selection information not appropriate for release to the public.”
So far, no other details are known but there is reason to believe that the lawsuit is related to a series of so-called Bid Protest Complaints that SpaceX filed with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) over contracts awarded to United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Earlier this year, SpaceX filed a protest with the GAO over the awarding of a NASA contract to launch Lucy, an asteroid exploration robot, for $150 million. SpaceX protested that it could have launched Lucy for considerably less but ultimately it ended up withdrawing its pending GAO protests in early April.
Shortly after, on April 20th, NASA awarded SpaceX a $70 million contract for its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). It’s uncertain whether SpaceX’s withdrawal of its protests was related to the awarding of this contract or not, but according to Teslarati, SpaceX had been facing criticism for its GAO complaints because they were forcing work on Lucy to remain frozen until things were sorted out. Dropping these protests and opting to sue the government instead would allow work on Lucy to proceed while SpaceX could make its case in court.
SpaceX Has Sued the Government Before and Won
This isn’t the first time that SpaceX has sued the government over its competitive bidding process. ULA had been the only company certified to bid on national security-related launches until SpaceX sued the government in 2014. SpaceX dropped that lawsuit after the government agreed to certify the company to bid on national security launch contracts.
If SpaceX really could have launched Lucy for less than the $150 million bid offered by ULA, then SpaceX has a very good case to make that the bidding process is not being administered fairly. Since the DART launch was awarded for less than half the cost of the Lucy launch, it’s safe to say that SpaceX almost certainly put in a lower bid than ULA did.
Until the case is resolved, however, we’re not likely to know more about it, but SpaceX was able to force a change in the bidding process before so there’s reason to believe that they may win out in the end.