PayPal founder Elon Musk files lawsuit contesting the award of multi-billion-dollar rocket launch contract to rival

Mr Musk claims the contract was not subject to a competitive bidding process - and that he could save US taxpayers $1bn
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The Independent Online

He has been touted for years as a man who will change the world – a billionaire who made his name as co-founder of PayPal and who runs Tesla Motors, the planet's most famous electric car firm. But now the world is not enough for Elon Musk as he claims his share of Outer Space.

By tomorrow, Mr Musk's other major venture, SpaceX, the California-based rocket company that he created in 2002, will file a lawsuit at the US Court of Federal Claims in Washington contesting the award, to a sole bidder, of a five-year multi-billion-dollar Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) contract to launch 36 rockets carrying satellites and other payloads.

The implications of the lawsuit are huge for Mr Musk, who claims the contract was not subject to a competitive bidding process. The Pentagon estimates that it will spend about $70bn on the space launches by 2030.

The contract, tendered by the US Air Force – which has the potential to be SpaceX's biggest customer – was awarded to United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of the engineering behemoths Lockheed Martin and Boeing, in December.

SpaceX started by issuing a mysterious announcement on Friday heralding a surprise press conference later that day in Washington DC. No further details were then given.

Mr Musk then announced the news of the lawsuit, called for the contract to be cancelled and for a new bidding process, and claimed he could save US taxpayers $1bn.

"We're just saying these launches should be competed. If we compete and lose, that's fine. But why would they not even compete it? That doesn't make sense," Mr Musk said.

He highlighted a $1.6bn contract that SpaceX holds with Nasa to run resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS). "It just seems odd that if your vehicle is good enough for Nasa... there is no reasonable basis for it not being capable of launching something quite simple like a GPS satellite," Mr Musk added.

SpaceX's rockets are not currently certified to work with the US Air Force, but Mr Musk stated that it was currently running through the "paperwork exercise" of rectifying that.