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Wed, Sep 11, 2013

Blue Origin Files Protest Over Launch Pad 39A Contract

Hopes To Block Exclusive Use By Any Launch Company, Wants Shared-Use Agreement

Commercial space company Blue Origin has filed a formal bid protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to prevent NASA from awarding an exclusive lease for any company to have the use of Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.

NASA has not announced a lease partner for the retired launch complex, but it is widely rumored that SpaceX has the inside track for the use of the pad that launched Apollo and shuttle missions into orbit.

Florida Today reports that five U.S. Senators have written to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to say that the use of the asset should not be limited to a single company. Among those signing the letter was Patty Murray, a Senator from Washington State where Blue Origin is based.

Blue Origin, which was founded by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, had placed a bid that would have refurbished the currently-unused pad for use by multiple space launch companies. Bezos' Blue Origin does not expect to have a vehicle ready for launch before 2018. NASA does not plan to use Pad 39A for future launches of Orion or other missions, relying exclusively on Pad 39B for heavy-lift launches.

The protest will at least delay a decision on a lease deal until mid-December when the GAO makes a ruling, and could have a direct impact on which companies can use the launch complex.

NASA spokesman David Weaver said that the agency was following selection process that is "open and fair" which will "ensure the best value for the taxpayers."

FMI: www.nasa.gov, www.gao.gov, www.blueorigin.com

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