Amazon's Jeff Bezos loses Nasa launch pad protest

Launchpad 39A The space shuttle Atlantis was launched from the pad that Blue Origin is looking to use

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A space company run by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has lost a protest over Nasa's plans to lease out a launch pad.

Blue Origin protested to the US Government Accountability Office about the process Nasa uses to decide which companies can use the launch pad, either exclusively or sharing it.

The GAO rejected the protest and said Nasa had not shown a preference for one approach over another.

Blue Origin has not commented on the ruling.

Nasa is hoping to lease out Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which has not been used since the US shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. It was the launch pad from which Apollo 11 lifted off for the first manned Moon landing.

A spokesman for Nasa said: "Given today's GAO ruling, Nasa is looking forward in the near future to selecting an industry partner for negotiations to lease and operate the launch pad."

'Open to sharing'

Another company, SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla Motors, is also bidding to use the facility.

SpaceX had originally wanted to use the site exclusively but later said it was open to sharing the site. Blue Origin's plans were to share the site.

The International Space Station The International Space Station, where SpaceX has docked a spacecraft

Blue Origin suggested that Nasa's proposal for seeking companies to use the site preferred an option where the site was shared.

But after Nasa administrator Charles Bolden made a comment that Blue Origin said showed the agency favoured an exclusive contract instead of a shared approach, the company filed a protest.

The GAO disagreed with the protest and in its ruling said: "There currently is nothing in the record beyond the protester's arguments to show that either approach necessarily is better in terms of meeting the agency's objective of achieving the fullest commercial use of space.

"We conclude that nothing in the language of the [announcement for proposal] favours one approach over the other."

SpaceX has made no comment on the ruling.

SpaceX already launches rockets from Cape Canaveral and last year became the first company to dock a commercial craft at the International Space Station,

Blue Origin is working on a system, known as New Shepard, that the company says will allow researchers and other passengers to fly to sub-orbital space.

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