Real Star Wars: Jeff Bezos vs. Elon Musk
Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin has won a NASA contract to design an astronaut delivery module to the moon to compete with Elon Musk's SpaceX Starship.
This is stated in a NASA press release.
This is a key contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to develop a lunar lander with a crew to deliver astronauts to the lunar surface later this decade as part of the agency's Artemis program.
The project is worth more than $7 billion.
This choice of NASA effectively resumes the lunar race between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, whose SpaceX company previously won and began developing a lunar version of its Starship rocket.
“Together, we are making an investment in the infrastructure that will pave the way to land the first astronauts on Mars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, announcing the award to Blue Origin.
On Friday, Joseph Bezos wrote on Twitter: “Honored to be on this journey with NASA to land astronauts on the Moon — this time to stay. Together, we’ll be solving the boil-off problem and making LOX-LH2 a storable propellant combination, pushing forward the state of the art for all deep space missions.”
NASA received two additional proposals for the contract, but neither was deemed “fully responsive to the solicitation requirements” and so was quickly rejected, wrote Jim Free, NASA associate administrator for the agency's research division, in documents released Friday.
The competition, known as the Sustaining Lunar Development program, was essentially a second-chance competition that NASA organized after Elon Musk's SpaceX was the sole winner of the contract for the first crewed lander in 2021.
This first program, called the Human Landing System, gave SpaceX a contract to develop a variant of its Starship rocket for Artemis missions. Before the HLS award was made, NASA was expected to select two winners, but the agency's budget at the time and SpaceX's more affordable proposal resulted in a single winner.
Last year, NASA awarded SpaceX an additional $1.15 billion under the HLS contract, exercising an option to purchase a second crewed demonstration landing from the company. This brings the total value of SpaceX's HLS contract to $4.2 billion by 2027.
As a reminder, SpaceX's undoubted victory in the first contract led to strong protests from Blue Origin. As a result, Bezos' company filed a lawsuit against NASA.