The US Court of Federal Claims has dismissed Blue Origin’s complaints that NASA unfairly awarded its $2.89bn next-generation lunar lander system contract to SpaceX.
The lander, known as the Human Landing System or HLS, is expected to launch the next man and first woman to the Moon. It's part of NASA’s Artemis program, a project to get humans back on the lunar surface. We haven't been there since 1972.
Commercial aerospace companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics jumped at the chance to build the spaceship that would take future astronauts to Earth's natural satellite.
In the end, NASA picked Elon Musk's SpaceX. Frustrated, Blue Origin and Dynetics both filed official complaints with the US Government Accountability Office. Blue Origin’s co-founder Jeff Bezos even offered NASA a $2bn discount to persuade officials to change their minds. When that failed, however, the company sued [PDF] NASA in the US Court of Federal Claims, alleging the space agency had breached its own contract rules by solely awarding the project to SpaceX.
But Bezos’ attempt to pry the contract from its top rival failed. The court sided with NASA’s request to dismiss the case on Thursday.
It looks like the tech billionaire is all out of tricks and has finally lost.
Not the decision we wanted, but we respect the court’s judgment, and wish full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract. pic.twitter.com/BeXc4A8YaW— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) November 4, 2021
NASA confirmed it will resume its collaboration with SpaceX to develop the HLS “as soon as possible,” according to a statement. “In addition to this contract, NASA continues working with multiple American companies to bolster competition and commercial readiness for crewed transportation to the lunar surface.”
“There will be forthcoming opportunities for companies to partner with NASA in establishing a long-term human presence at the Moon under the agency’s Artemis program, including a call in 2022 to U.S. industry for recurring crewed lunar landing services. Through Artemis missions, NASA will lead the world in landing the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface, conduct extensive operations on and around the Moon, and get ready for human missions to Mars,” it added.
- NASA sets a date to begin lunar tuning
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Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Blue Origin told The Register: “Our lawsuit with the Court of Federal Claims highlighted the important safety issues with the Human Landing System procurement process that must still be addressed. Returning astronauts safely to the Moon through NASA’s public-private partnership model requires an unprejudiced procurement process alongside sound policy that incorporates redundant systems and promotes competition.
“Blue Origin remains deeply committed to the success of the Artemis program, and we have a broad base of activity on multiple contracts with NASA to achieve the United States’ goal to return to the Moon to stay. We are fully engaged with NASA to mature sustainable lander designs, conduct a wide variety of technology risk reductions, and provide Commercial Lunar Payload Services. We are also under contract with NASA to develop in-situ resource utilization technology, lunar space robotics, and lunar landing sensor collaboration including testing on New Shepard. We look forward to hearing from NASA on next steps in the HLS procurement process.”
SpaceX did not respond to El Reg's request for comment. ®