Day: August 12, 2019

Blue Origin protests launch contract rules as it competes with SpaceX, ULA, Northrop Grumman

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An artist’s conception shows Blue Origin’s future New Glenn rocket, which is currently due to have its first flight in 2021. (Blue Origin Illustration)

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture is protesting the rules of the game for awarding future national security launch contracts, while continuing to play against SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Northrop Grumman.

All four companies have submitted bids in the second phase of an Air Force competition aimed at selecting vendors for launches in the 2022-2026 time frame.

In the first phase of the competition, the Air Force said it would set aside as much as $2.3 billion to support the development of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket, ULA’s Vulcan rocket and Northrop Grumman’s OmegA rocket. All those rockets are scheduled to enter service in the 2021 time frame.

However, the Air Force said it would reduce the field to two companies next year. Moreover, SpaceX – which didn’t qualify for development funds in Phase 1 – is joining the field for Phase 2 with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, both of which are already flying.

In May, SpaceX filed a lawsuit against the federal government, complaining that it was unfairly left out of the Phase 1 awards and left at a disadvantage for Phase 2. Back then, the other three companies disputed SpaceX’s claims and supported the Air Force’s Phase 1 arrangement.

Today, it was Blue Origin’s turn to protest: The company said it filed a pre-award bid protest with the Government Accountability Office, claiming that it would be unfair for the Air Force to reduce the field to just two companies.

“The Air Force is pursuing a flawed acquisition strategy for the National Security Space Launch program,” Blue Origin said in a fact sheet distributed to media outlets. “Unless the Air Force changes its approach, this procurement will perpetuate a market duopoly in national security space launch well into the next decade, causing higher launch prices, less assured access to space, and a missed opportunity to expand our national security interests and bolster U.S. leadership in space.”

Florida Today quoted Blue Origin as saying in its protest that the total demand for U.S.-based rocket launches, including national security launches, should be able to support three or four companies.

Blue Origin voiced concern over potential vagueness in the criteria used for evaluating launch providers. And it was particularly concerned about a provision suggesting that launch bidders could turn to a backup option if necessary.

That provision could give an advantage to ULA, which already is flying Atlas 5 rockets for national security missions. There’s a bit of irony in that, considering that the current competition was organized to provide alternatives to the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines used on the Atlas 5.

The bottom line, from Blue Origin’s perspective, is that the rules of the game seem to favor SpaceX and ULA, the two current providers for national security launches.

The GAO typically has 100 days to render a decision on a bid protest. That’s the way the timeline played out in 2013 when Blue Origin battled against SpaceX to lease Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – a battle that SpaceX ultimately won.

Today both SpaceX and ULA issued statements saying they intend to win the current battle. Here’s what SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell had to say:

“SpaceX means to serve as the Air Force’s long-term provider for space launch, offering existing, certified and proven launch systems capable of carrying out the full spectrum of national security space launch missions and requirements.”

And here’s a quote from United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno, included in ULA’s news release:

“Atlas and Delta rockets have been the backbone of national security space launch for decades, building on a progressive history of technology development and advancement – Vulcan Centaur will advance this rich heritage.”

Jeff Bezos has said that he spends a billion dollars a year on Blue Origin, with the bulk of that money going toward development of the New Glenn rocket. The company, which is based south of Seattle in Kent, Wash., is building a factory in Alabama to produce the BE-4 rocket engines for New Glenn, and is gearing up for rocket assembly at another multimillion-dollar factory in Florida.

Whoever wins out in the competition for national security launches is sure to reap billions of dollars in contracts. The current plan calls for splitting the contracts 60-40 between the top-rated company and the runner-up.

Jeffrey Epstein told a reporter he saw Silicon Valley notables doing drugs and ‘arranging for sex’

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  • Jeffrey Epstein told a reporter for The New York Times last year that he had damaging information about notable Silicon Valley figures.
  • He said he had witnessed tech leaders doing drugs and “arranging for sex,” according to an article published Monday.
  • The article doesn’t name any names.
  • Epstein died by suicide on Saturday.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who died by suicide in jail on Saturday, told a reporter last year he had dirt on some of Silicon Valley’s elite.

The stereotypical tech entrepreneur is a nerdy guy who works all the time. But according Epstein, the truth was much different, The New York Times’ James B. Stewart said in a report on Monday. Epstein said he had seen prominent tech figures doing drugs and “arranging for sex,” according to the article.

“They were hedonistic and regular users of recreational drugs,” Stewart reported, paraphrasing Epstein.

Stewart doesn’t name any particular people whom Epstein said he witnessed doing illicit or hedonistic things.

The article focuses on Epstein’s claim that he was asked by Tesla CEO Elon Musk to help him find a new chairman for the electric-car company. Epstein told Stewart that Musk had authorized him to help find a new chairman after Musk got in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year over an ill-advised tweet about having “funding secured” for the company to go private.

In a statement to Business Insider, a spokesperson for Musk said it was “incorrect to say that Epstein ever advised Elon on anything.”

Read more: Jeffrey Epstein allegedly boasted about advising Elon Musk in the wake of his bungled attempt to take Tesla private

Stewart later thought about “how little information Mr. Epstein had actually provided” in the interview. “While I can’t say anything he said was an explicit lie, much of what he said was vague or speculative and couldn’t be proved or disproved,” Stewart said in his report.

Epstein had asked Stewart to keep the interview on background, meaning that Stewart couldn’t attribute any facts to or quote Epstein in a subsequent article about what they discussed. With Epstein’s death, Stewart considered that agreement to have ended.

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at [email protected], message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

SEE ALSO: A legal fight over Jeffrey Epstein’s multi-million dollar estate could drag on for years

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Elon Musk denies Jeffrey Epstein advised him or Tesla during the company’s bungled attempt to go private (TSLA)

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  • Jeffrey Epstein told a New York Times reporter that he had advised Tesla CEO Elon Musk during the frenetic few weeks in summer 2018 when Musk had sought to take the electric-car company private.
  • According to the newspaper’s James B. Stewart, he asked Epstein about rumblings that he had also been approached by someone close to Musk who sought his help to find a new chairman for the electric-car company. A spokesperson for Musk denies this.
  • The alleged anecdotes from Epstein, among others reported on Monday, add to the picture of the disgraced financier who had been held in federal lockup in New York on sex-trafficking charges until he died of an apparent suicide on Saturday.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Jeffrey Epstein claimed to have been an adviser to Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk, a New York Times reporter said on Monday, two days after Epstein was found dead of an apparent suicide while in federal lockup on sex-trafficking charges.

Epstein allegedly said he had been looking for people to invest in Tesla. The Times’ James B. Stewart wrote that he heard a rumor that Epstein had an email from someone close to Musk who sought help finding a new chairman.

The alleged anecdotes were part of a comprehensive retelling of a confidential August 16, 2018, interview between Stewart and Epstein. Following Epstein’s death, Stewart said he considered the “on background” agreement moot.

The reporter visited with Epstein at his New York home, where the financier talked about his connections with the titans of industry and politics. Epstein claimed that he had friends at Tesla, but never went into much detail, according to The Times.

“It is incorrect to say that Epstein ever advised Elon or Tesla on anything,” a spokesperson for Musk told Business Insider on Monday.

Read more: The most shocking parts of working at Tesla, according to current and former employees

The multimillionaire financier allegedly cited the fact that his history of sexual misconduct targeting underaged girls made him “radioactive.” (He pleaded guilty to two state counts of soliciting prostitution in 2008, and in July of this year was indicted on one count of sex trafficking and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking related to the alleged abuse of underage girls as young as 14.)

The timing of the interview between the newspaper and Epstein last summer — including Epstein’s claim that he had spoken to the Saudis about investing in Tesla — coincides with a tweet Musk sent on August 13, 2018, in which Musk said he had met with the Saudis a month earlier.

The Times reporter acknowledged that Epstein was never entirely clear about his claimed interactions with Tesla or Musk.

“While I can’t say anything he said was an explicit lie, much of what he said was vague or speculative and couldn’t be proved or disproved,” he said.

SEE ALSO: FBI agents are livid that Trump is amplifying ‘bulls— theories’ about Jeffrey Epstein’s death ‘that have no basis in reality’

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