Story at a glance
- The Senate voted 68-32 Tuesday to adopt the new U.S. Innovation and Competition Act.
- An amendment on the measure allocates $10 billion to NASA’s moon lander contracts and requires the space agency to choose a second company for the project in addition to SpaceX.
- SpaceX beat out Blue Origin and Dynetics for the $2.9 billion contract in April.
A sweeping science and technology bill aimed at giving the U.S. a competitive edge over China could give Jeff Bezos’s aerospace company Blue Origin a foothold in its rivalry with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
The Senate voted 68-32 Tuesday to adopt the new U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. The sprawling bill commits approximately $250 billion of funds to put the U.S. on an even footing with China on a range of emerging technology issues, including addressing the semiconductor shortage and investments to the National Science Foundation.
An amendment on the measure also allocates $10 billion to NASA’s moon lander contracts and requires the space agency to choose a second company for the project in addition to SpaceX, according to The Verge.
SpaceX beat out Blue Origin and Dynetics for the $2.9 billion contract in April.
NASA’s Artemis program is plotting the next manned mission to the moon by 2024.
Blue Origin filed an official complaint against NASA’s decision to only choose one company with the Government Accountability Office. In May, Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) proposed the amendment that was included in the bill in an effort to promote commercial competition.
If the bill passes the House, it will give NASA just 60 days to pick a second contractor.
While the amendment doesn’t specifically mention Blue Origin, the company was viewed as the runner-up in the competition for the NASA contract.
The amendment received pushback from SpaceX. The Verge reports the company’s lobbyists distributed a memo to lawmakers in May calling the amendment a handout.
“Blue Origin has received more than $778 million from NASA, the Air Force, and the Space Force since 2011, and it has not produced a single rocket or spacecraft capable of reaching orbit,” the memo reportedly said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a consistent critic of Bezos, called the amendment a “Bezos bailout” and ultimately voted against the legislation, according to The Washington Post.
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