Work on the project of landing a man on the moon is suspended until November 1.
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has temporarily suspended cooperation with Elon Musk’s SpaceX under a contract for developing a system for landing a person on the surface of the Moon in 2024 for $ 2.9 billion under the Artemis program. The American space Agency made this decision after another lawsuit by the company of the richest man on the planet, Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin.
Owned by billionaire Bezos, Blue Origin last week filed a lawsuit in the federal court of the United States, in which it pointed out the shortcomings of the deal, according to Reuters. The company now seeks to “correct the mistakes made during the conclusion of the contract, ensure a fair approach, create competition and guarantee the safe return of America to the Moon.”
Blue Origin is trying to challenge the decision of the space agency to entrust work on the lunar module within the framework of the Artemis program to SpaceX for the second time. Earlier, in exchange for this contract, Bezos even offered to cover the costs of NASA in the amount of up to $ 2 billion.
Recall that NASA announced the project of the Artemis program, consisting of three stages, in the spring of 2019. The first of them involves an uncrewed flight of the Orion spacecraft installed on the Space Launch System rocket around the Moon and its return to Earth. The second stage is a flyby of a natural satellite of the Earth with a crew on board. The third phase of the mission provides for the landing of astronauts on the Moon in 2024, and then they will be sent to Mars approximately in the mid-2030s.
Now, the “dispute of economic entities” has led to the fact that work on the ambitious “lunar contract” is suspended until November 1. Meanwhile, according to Reuters, the first hearing on the Blue Origin lawsuit is scheduled for October 14.
“In exchange for this temporary suspension of work, all parties agreed to an accelerated schedule of court proceedings, which will end on November 1,” a representative of the space agency said. “NASA representatives continue to work with the Department of Justice to study the details of the case, and hope for a timely resolution of this issue.”
This week, SpaceX intervened in the lawsuit. The company intends to make sure that the court “has a complete and accurate understanding of all the facts and circumstances related to this case.” After all, if Blue Origin’s lawsuit is satisfied, Elon Musk’s firm “will suffer huge damage.”
Previously, it was assumed that SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics would jointly participate in the NASA project to develop lunar landers. However, according to the head of the manned flight program, Kathy Lueders, the aerospace agency refused this option due to lack of funding. The fact is that of the $ 3.3 billion requested for this purpose, the U.S. Congress has allocated only $ 850 million.
Thus, SpaceX was declared the winner of the competition. NASA explained its decision not only with limited funds but also by the fact that Elon Musk’s offer turned out to be the most profitable. According to CNBC, Blue Origin estimated its services at $ 5.9 billion, Dynetics – at $ 8.5 billion, while the amount of the SpaceX contract was $ 2.89 billion.
After the loss, Blue Origin accused NASA of “illegal and improper evaluation” of the competition and filed a complaint against the management’s decision with the United States Accounting Chamber. However, she sided with the space agency in July.
According to her decision, NASA did not violate any rules when choosing the winner, so the space agency was entitled to choose only one contractor. In addition, the report of the U.S. Audit Chamber emphasized that the project of the human landing system on the Moon submitted by SpaceX “met the stated requirements.” That is why the company received the contract legally.
Last year, another company of the billionaire Bezos, the famous American online retailer Amazon, sued the U.S. Department of Defense. The Pentagon gave Microsoft a 10-billion contract to supply software for storing data in the “cloud.” But since its implementation was suspended due to the lawsuit, the agency eventually canceled its offer and announced a new tender.