Blue Origin has made another attempt to secure a contract to build a lunar lander for NASA’s future Artemis missions. It teamed up with several other companies for the proposal, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Draper. Astrobotic and Honeybee Robotics are also involved.
In 2021, NASA gave SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to use a version of Starship as a lunar lander. Blue Origin challenged that move, claiming that NASA’s “decision eliminates opportunities for competition, significantly narrows the supply base and not only delays, but also endangers America’s return to the Moon.”
Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos wrote in an open letter to NASA administrator Bill Nelson in July last year that his company was willing to waive up to $2 billion in payments in exchange for a fixed-price lander contract. Bezos also complained that the decision to award a single contract gave SpaceX “a multiyear, multibillion-dollar head start” and claimed it “broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come.”
NASA had intended to award two lunar lander contracts, but it opted to only issue one due to funding concerns. In August 2021, Blue Origin filed a lawsuit against NASA over its handling of the Human Landing System program. However, a Federal Court of Claims judge ruled against Blue Origin. The lawsuit held up work on SpaceX’s lander and delayed a crewed mission to the Moon until 2025.
Earlier this year, NASA said it would again accept proposals for a second lunar lander project. Now, Blue Origin is taking the agency up on the offer. As The Wall Street Journal notes, Blue Origin will face competition from Northrop Grumman and Leidos Dynetics. Northrop Grumman worked with Blue Origin during the first round of contract bids.
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