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An artist's illustration of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket in flight. Photo: Blue Origin

Blue Origin is protesting the Air Force's methods for finding 2 companies to launch national security payloads through the mid-2020s.

Why it matters: If chosen, the companies will effectively lock in billions of dollars in revenue, undertaking a 60/40 split of national security launches between 2022 and 2026.

The big picture: Blue Origin, SpaceX, Northrop Grumman and United Launch Alliance are all expected to compete to launch these payloads, and it would be a boon for their bottom lines.

  • "The demand for rockets really can't support all the providers. So it's a kind of vicious fight to stay alive," John Logsdon, founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, told Axios of the competition earlier this year.

The state of play: In a fact sheet, Blue Origin claims that the Air Force's request for proposals is "flawed" and favors incumbents — SpaceX and United Launch Alliance — that have launched missions for the Air Force in recent years.

  • A redacted copy of the protest filed with the U.S. Government Accountability Office and obtained by Axios accuses the Air Force of using "ambiguous" selection criteria, making it difficult to write a competitive proposal.
  • The protest also claims that the way the request for proposals stands now will result in a "duopoly" that restricts competition.
  • A source with knowledge of the situation told Axios that the protest comes after conversations with the Air Force expressing these concerns.

Context: If chosen, Blue Origin would use its New Glenn rocket to launch these national security payloads. That rocket is expected to make its first flight in 2021, after the government agency has already chosen its launch providers.

Meanwhile, the Air Force awarded Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman and United Launch Alliance millions of dollars in 2018 to aid in the development of their new launch systems and meet stringent demands for national security-related launches.

Go deeper: Space companies fight for cash with rockets on the line

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Biden reviews U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Trump supporter found with pipe bombs accused of plot to attack Democrats

Five improvised explosive devices that the FBI says "were fully operational and could cause great bodily harm or injury if handled improperly." Photo: FBI/Justice Department

The FBI believes California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook were targets of a man facing federal explosives charges, according to a criminal complaint.

Driving the news: Prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers after finding weapons including five pipe bombs, 49 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition following a Jan. 15 search of his Napa County home and auto repair business. His alleged goal was to ensure former President Trump remained in office.

6 hours ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."