NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion Artemis Human Landing System (HLS) contract in April to develop a lunar-optimized Starship to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024. The agency is facing opposition from competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics, that also bid to develop a lunar lander. The companies filed multiple protests against NASA claiming the selection process was ‘unfair’ and requested the independent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the case. GAO rejected the HLS contract protests on July 30, stating that NASA did not break any law for selecting only one company to develop the HLS lunar lander. Soon after GAO’s announcement, NASA paid $300 million to SpaceX, which is a portion of the HLS award to develop a Starship lunar lander.
After losing the case, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos escalated the dispute. He filed a federal lawsuit against NASA on August 13 to fight for the HLS contract at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. “This bid protest challenges NASA's unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals,” Blue Origin's lawyers wrote in its federal court filing. Some Blue Origin employees do not agree with the steps Bezos is taking. On the same day the lawsuit was filed, Blue Origin’s HLS Lead Engineer Nitin Arora announced they resigned to work at SpaceX instead. Read more in the previous TESMANIAN article, linked below.
Blue Origin Lunar Lander Lead Engineer Resigns & Joins SpaceX Amid Jeff Bezos’ NASA HLS Contract Lawsuithttps://t.co/7bU687faRg— Tesmanian.com (@Tesmanian_com) August 17, 2021
This week, NASA decided to halt SpaceX HLS contract work until November 1st due to the Blue Origin lawsuit. “NASA has voluntarily paused work with SpaceX for the human landing system (HLS) Option A contract effective Aug. 19 through Nov. 1. In exchange for this temporary stay of work, all parties agreed to an expedited litigation schedule that concludes on Nov. 1,” the agency said in a statement. “NASA officials are continuing to work with the Department of Justice to review the details of the case and look forward to a timely resolution of this matter. NASA is committed to Artemis and to maintaining the nation's global leadership in space exploration. With our partners, we will go to the Moon and stay to enable science investigations, develop new technology, and create high paying jobs for the greater good and in preparation to send astronauts to Mars,” an agency representative wrote.
NASA's decision to halt SpaceX's HLS contract work does not affect SpaceX's daily operations. The company continues to develop the Starship launch vehicle in South Texas and aims to have a space-ready vehicle before the year 2023. Engineers are currently preparing to conduct the first orbital flight test. In the weeks ahead, we can expect to see them initiate the stainless-steel vehicle's test campaign. You can follow SpaceX Starship progress in a Live broadcast below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.