More Boots on Moon delays: NASA stops work on SpaceX human landing system as Blue Origin lawsuit rolls on

US agency agrees to pause in exchange for 'expedited' schedule. That'll be a first for Artemis


NASA is calling a halt to work on its Human Landing System for more than two months while the legal shenanigans triggered by Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin run their course.

Blue Origin filed its latest lawsuit last week over a multibillion-dollar contract awarded to SpaceX for the development of the next lunar lander.

The suit had followed a formal protest by Bezos and pals, which was subsequently snubbed by lawmakers.

A schedule issue for the suit [PDF] issued last night, detailing deadlines for filings, included a line indicating that NASA was downing tools while the process ground its way through the system. The action "NASA Voluntary Stay of Performance" is set to expire on 1 November 2021, effectively inserting a more than two-month delay into NASA's already tight schedule.

The agency hopes that its actions will speed things up a bit. A spokesperson told The Register: "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.

"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."

The agency did not comment on the impact the pause would have on its schedules. A recent report by NASA's Office of Inspector General made for grim reading for enthusiasts hoping for a return to the Moon before 2025. The chances of suits for the astronauts being ready in time was slim, and the latest legal wrangling has further dented the chances of a vehicle being ready in time to ferry 'nauts down to the lunar surface.

The next deadline for Blue Origin is 3 September, when motions are expected to be filed. The US and SpaceX then have until 9 September to respond, followed by to-ing and fro-ing of cross-motions into October. ®

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