NASA can proceed with its solicitation to dispense with one of the space shuttle’s mothballed launch pads, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has determined.

The GAO denied a protest by Blue Origin, a startup commercial rocket firm owned by founder Jeff Bezos, that NASA’s solicitation was unfair.

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Blue Origin is competing against Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, for Launch Pad 39A, one of two launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida idled by the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011.

NASA had hoped to chose a company to take over pad operations and maintenance beginning Oct. 1, but Blue Origin filed a protest over the solicitation with the GAO in September, delaying the agency’s decision.

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“Blue Origin maintains that the agency intends to misapply the terms of the (solicitation) in evaluating proposals and selecting a prospective lessee for the facility. We deny the protest,” the GAO ruled on Thursday.

In a statement, 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 LC-39A.  Permitting use of this valuable national asset by commercial entities will ensure its continued viability and will allow for its continued use in support of U.S. space activities.”

Blue Origin and SpaceX were not immediately available for comment.

Image: KSC’s Launch Complex 39 is strategically located next to a barge site and a variety of structures, including a Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPF), Press Site, Launch Control Center (LCC), and a crawlerway to the pads. Credit: NASA