NASA halts work on Lunar Lander with SpaceX amid Blue Origin Lawsuit: In mid-April, NASA announced that SpaceX would be building the Human Lander System (HLS), which would carry astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface, for the Artemis 3 mission, due to fly in 2024.
But since the decision, NASA has actually spent a few weeks working on the partnership due to repeated objections from Blue Origin, which also competed for the contract.
Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin lawsuit caused NASA to again stop working on its manned moon lander partnership with SpaceX, further risking the agency’s tight timeline for getting astronauts back to the Moon.
After an independent government agency dismissed Blue Origin’s first complaint about the contract, the company sued NASA in federal claims court, which specifically dealt with the U.S. hears cases against the government, on 13 August; The agency has now agreed to put the project on hold for 2.5 months in exchange for resolving the lawsuit by the end of that window.
NASA’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon is built on partnerships with American businesses as the agency continues the model established with its commercial cargo and International Space Station-affiliated crew programs.
Three groups submitted proposals to fill that role: SpaceX, Dianetics, and a so-called national team led by Blue Origin. Many expected NASA to choose two, as it did for space station contracts; Meanwhile, Congress allocated significantly less funding for the program than NASA requested, more than $3 billion compared to $850 million.
So NASA awarded only one contract, and only to SpaceX, which had made the lowest bid and planned to adapt its already working Starship vehicle and super-heavy booster for the job. Blue Origin and Dianetics immediately asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review NASA’s decision, putting the project on hold; That office announced on July 30 that it would let the selection stand.
Two weeks later, Blue Origin brought the issue to federal claims court. The suit marks another delay in a process that NASA hopes will ease up.
The agency’s Artemis program was always ambitious; Less than a year after it was announced, COVID-19 hit the world, forcing the government and companies to halt work on the site.
Other critical parts of the program have also faced delays: the critical green-run test series of NASA’s SLS rocket ran slow and the final installment required two attempts. Meanwhile, NASA’s Office of the Inspector General released a report arguing that NASA’s lunar spacesuits may not be ready before April 2025.
President Donald Trump’s administration set a deadline of 2024, and when President Joe Biden took office, many wondered whether the new administration would delay the program.
But throughout the presidential change and the confirmation of Biden’s selection for NASA’s administrator, former Florida Senator Bill Nelson, the agency has continued to say it will try to meet the ambitious date, provided Congress has adequately approved the program.
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