NASA has agreed to place its SpaceX lunar lander contract on maintain for a second time because it offers with a Blue Origin lawsuit. Work on the Artemis lunar lander might not recommence till November, placing NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the Moon in 2024 in even larger jeopardy.
When Blue Origin filed its swimsuit with the U.S. Court docket of Federal Claims late final week, I raised the priority that the transfer would trigger additional delays within the growth of NASA’s lunar lander. Seems that concern was warranted.
“NASA has voluntarily paused work with SpaceX for the human touchdown system (HLS) Choice A contract efficient August 19 by way of November 1,” in response to an emailed NASA assertion.
Ouch. That’s a delay of no less than 10 weeks—10 valuable weeks during which NASA and SpaceX have been alleged to hammer away at a lander to ship astronauts to the lunar floor in late 2024.
In change for this non permanent pause, “all events agreed to an expedited litigation schedule that concludes on November 1,” NASA mentioned, including that house company officers will proceed to work with the Division of Justice to “overview the main points of the case and stay up for a well timed decision of this matter.” As Reuters reports, oral arguments for the case might be heard on October 14.
Chatting with SpaceNews, NASA administrator Invoice Nelson said the matter is “out of our palms” because the case is being dealt with by the Division of Justice. Nelson worries that the lawsuit will “additional delay” the Artemis program and that the choose within the case may demand a “very laborious discovery.”
This newest delay within the challenge comes three weeks after the Authorities Accountability Workplace (GAO) denied a protest filed by Blue Origin. The Jeff Bezos-led firm had argued that the bidding course of was unfair and that NASA was alleged to award a number of contracts for the lander. The GAO determination allowed NASA and SpaceX to lastly get cracking on the $2.89 billion contract, however that clearly didn’t final lengthy.
NASA’s determination to award a single contract hasn’t gone over effectively with Bezos. Along with submitting a protest with the GAO, Blue Origin has lobbied Congress, provided a $2 billion low cost off its $5.99 billion quote to construct a lunar lander, produced infographics criticizing the SpaceX lunar lander design, and, now, filed a lawsuit towards NASA. The swimsuit is an “try to treatment the issues within the acquisition course of present in NASA’s Human Touchdown System,” a Blue Origin spokesperson mentioned in an e mail.
That the lawsuit may delay the Artemis mission may very well be a deliberate technique. Bezos is on the record saying protests throughout the procurement course of “slows issues down.”
SpaceX, as Reuters reports, has intervened within the lawsuit. The Elon Musk-led firm is in search of to make sure that the courtroom “has a whole and correct image of the information and circumstances surrounding this protest, together with the substantial hurt that SpaceX will undergo if the courtroom grants the reduction sought” by Blue Origin.
In its assertion, NASA mentioned it stays “dedicated to Artemis and to sustaining the nation’s world management in house exploration.” The house company, together with its companions, “will go to the Moon and keep to allow science investigations, develop new expertise, and create excessive paying jobs for the larger good and in preparation to ship astronauts to Mars,” NASA mentioned.
That’s all effective and effectively, however a crewed Moon touchdown in 2024 has by no means appeared extra unlikely than it does at this time. Along with not having a viable lunar lander (no less than not for the foreseeable future), NASA gained’t have its next-gen spacesuits prepared till April 2025, and it nonetheless must get its House Launch System (SLS) off the bottom.
Extra: NASA weakly defends astronaut following Russian state media accusations of ISS sabotage.