Jeff Bezos might still be in the running to receive billions of dollars in government funds for his space exploration company Blue Origin. Thanks to a congressional amendment introduced on a science and technology bill, the company that lost a major bid to SpaceX might get a second chance.
The Endless Frontier Act is a bill making its way through the Congressional houses and a vote in the Senate might happen on May 27, followed by a House vote at a later date. One Democratic senator, Maria Cantwell of Washington, has sponsored a measure amending that bill to fund an additional $10 billion to another company in addition to SpaceX.
Why SpaceX won a NASA contract bid
Last month, NASA announced that Elon Musk's space exploration firm, SpaceX, had won a $2.9 billion contract to provide lunar transportation to American astronauts. Blue Origin, the space company headed by Bezos, was also in the running for this contract.
SpaceX won the bidding war against Blue Origin and earned the right to use its Starship rocket to transport astronauts from lunar orbit to the moon’s surface. According to The Washington Post (owned by Bezos), SpaceX won the award “to preserve a competitive environment.”
How Blue Origin will receive funding
As part of the Endless Frontier Act, a bill expected to reach a vote in the Senate on May 27, Blue Origin could potentially receive $10 billion in federal funding in what some are calling a “bailout.”
If the amendment passes, it won't change SpaceX’s financial award, but it will provide a second financial award that Blue Origin would be in the running to win. Cantwell stated that for such a major project, there should be redundancy, or having more than one contractor engaged in case one fails in its mission.
The Endless Frontier Act already has strong bipartisan support, according to The Intercept. The Senate passed a procedural vote by a 71-27 margin last week. If it passes a Senate vote that could take place as early as May 27, it will move on to the House.
Lobbying disclosure records showed that Blue Origin spent $625,000 in lobbying to Congress during the first quarter of 2021. Blue Origin and Dynetics, a rival space company, both filed protests with the Government Accountability Office after losing the bid to SpaceX.
Did Jeff Bezos get bailout money?
Several senators on both sides of the political aisle vocally opposed the addition of a so-called "Bezos bailout." Although not exactly a bailout, the measure would provide funds that Blue Origin lost out on in the bid to put astronauts on the moon.
Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced an amendment that would block Cantwell’s amendment providing funds to another contractor. He pointed out the irony of awarding billions to the multi-billionaire. Sanders proposes more negotiations with the companies it awards funds to.
Other senators oppose the measure, including Republicans Josh Hawley and Ron Johnson. Hawley has also proposed amendments to the Endless Frontier Act aimed at protecting human rights and American workers.