NASA Tells Elon Musk’s SpaceX to Stop Work on Lunar Landing After Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origins Protested Contract
Meanwhile, SpaceX successfully completes company’s first full-fledged crewed mission to the International Space Station.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has suspended its contract with Elon Musk’s SpaceX for the landing system to take astronauts to and from the lunar surface.
Two other competitors for the contract, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ firm Blue Origin, filed protests with the Government Accountability Office (GAO). As a result, NASA issued the stop-work order until GAO resolves the matter.
NASA awarded 10-month contracts to three companies one year ago today to further develop their concepts for Human Landing Systems (HLS) as part of the Artemis program to return astronauts to the lunar surface: SpaceX, Dynetics, and Blue Origin’s “National Team” that includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper.
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft will take crews to lunar orbit, but they will finish the journey using HLS.
Two weeks ago, NASA chose SpaceX to proceed into development, awarding it a $2.99 billion fixed price contract. It is only for the first Artemis landing and a precursor uncrewed flight test. NASA is issuing a separate solicitation for landing systems for future missions.
Blue Origins filed a 50-page complaint shortly after NASA gave the contract to SpaceX.
Bob Smith, chief executive of Blue Origin, said NASA’s decision was based on flawed evaluations of the bids — misjudging advantages of Blue Origin’s proposal and downplaying technical challenges in SpaceX’s. He also said NASA had placed a bigger emphasis on bottom-line cost than it said it would.
“It’s really atypical for NASA to make these kinds of errors,” Mr. Smith said in an interview. “They’re generally quite good at acquisition, especially its flagship missions like returning America to the surface of the moon. We felt that these errors needed to be addressed and remedied.”
He added that in any case, the space agency should have stuck with a desire it had stated many times, of wanting to hand out awards to two companies.
Musk took the move by NASA with humor and in stride.
Musk trolled his fellow multibillionaire Bezos on Monday, joking that he ‘can’t get it up (to orbit)’ after the Amazon founder’s space company filed a protest against NASA for picking rival SpaceX to build a lunar lander.
Musk took to Twitter to tease Bezos over that lawsuit on Monday evening, and replied to a tweet sharing a New York Times story about the space wrangle, writing: ‘Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol.’
Bezos’ company said that its bid was $5.99billion while SpaceX’s bid came in at $2.91billion, according to AL.com.
Musk’s Starship – the futuristic, shiny steel rocketship that’s been launching and -on one occasion – exploding in Texas – beat out landers proposed by Bezos’ Blue Origin and Dynetics, a Huntsville, Alabama-based subsidiary of Leidos.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 27, 2021
Meanwhile, a SpaceX Dragon capsule carrying four astronauts returned to Earth early Sunday with an ocean splashdown off the Florida coast. This event marked the successful completion of the company’s first full-fledged crewed mission to the International Space Station.
The astronauts of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission for NASA splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City at 2:56 a.m. EDT (0656 GMT), with a recovery ship swiftly retrieving their Crew Dragon capsule from the sea. The spacecraft landed on target, marking the first nighttime splashdown of a U.S. crewed flight in 53 years. The last was NASA’s Apollo 8 moon mission on Dec. 27, 1968.
“Dragon, on behalf of NASA and SpaceX teams, we welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX. For those of you enrolled in our frequent flier program, you’ve earned 68 million miles [109 million kilometers] on this voyage,” a SpaceX crew operations and resources engineer told the Crew-1 astronauts after splashdown.
“It is good to be back on planet Earth,” replied NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, commander of the Crew-1 mission. “We’ll take those miles. Are they transferable?”
Blue Origin has yet to have one successful orbital flight. On the other hand, SpaceX has now sent astronauts to the ISS and returned them safely, effectively reused first-stage rockets, and launched a Tesla into space. So instead of battling in the courts, Team Bezos should divert some of its enormous wealth and resources into actually launching cost-effective and practical space technology.DONATE
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