Military Capabilities

US GAO sustains Blue Origin protest of US Air Force launch solicitation

19 November 2019

Artist's illustration of Blue Origin's New Glenn orbital reusable launch vehicle. The US GAO sustained the company's protest of the US Air Force's National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement. Source: Blue Origin

Key Points

  • The US congressional watchdog upheld Blue Origin's bid protest of a US Air Force launch solicitation
  • The USAF wants to award two contracts for commercial launch services

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on 18 November sustained a protest of a recent US Air Force (USAF) launch solicitation, calling it inconsistent with applicable procurement law and regulation and otherwise unreasonable.

Blue Origin on 12 August protested the USAF's National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement, alleging that several terms of the request for proposal (RFP) unduly restricted competition, were ambiguous, or were inconsistent with customary commercial practice. The solicitation seeks to award two contracts for commercial item launch services in support of military space missions.

The USAF, according to the RFP, will make the two awards by deciding which combination of two independently developed proposals offers the best value to the government. Kenneth Patton, GAO managing associate general counsel for procurement law, said in a 18 November statement that this methodology described by the USAF does not provide a reasonable, common basis on which offerors will be expected to compete and have their proposals evaluated. The GAO recommended the USAF amend the solicitation.

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