NASA has put a hold on its moon lander project, which it rewarded Elon Musk’s aerospace firm SpaceX a US$2.9 billion contract two weeks ago. The delay is caused by the recent formal complaint filed by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and defence contractor Dynetics to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) earlier this week.
According to a statement released on Friday, NASA spokesperson Monica Witt says that the US-based space agency has instructed SpaceX to suspend progress on the lunar HLS (human landing systems) until GAO resolves all outstanding litigation related to this procurement. Sources such as Reuters noted that the challenges from Blue Origin and Dynetics could extend until 4 August 2021 at the latest.
In a report by SpaceNews, Dynetics claims that NASA chose “the most anti-competitive and high risk option available”. It argues that the space agency proceeded with a single award despite receiving only about one fourth of the $3.3 billion it requested for the program from the US Congress in fiscal year 2021. “In light of this new budget constraint and schedule change, the HLS program as originally conceived and as set forth in the Solicitation is no longer executable,” Dynetics said.
Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin, as previously reported, said that NASA’s decision to award SpaceX the moon lander contract eliminates opportunities for the competition. It added that this in turn narrows the supply base, which not only delay but also “endanger America’s return to the moon”.
That being said, the contract challenges by the two companies against NASA and SpaceX is already causing a delay to the country’s potential revisit to Earth’s natural satellite, ironically.