NASA has chosen a team led by Blue Origin to develop a second lunar landing system for the Artemis program as the agency looks to compete with SpaceX and support long-term exploration of the moon.
The winning team includes lockheed Martin, Draper, boeing, astrobotic and bee R.obotics
The prize includes one uncrewed demonstration landing and one crewed demonstration landing. NASA aims to use this vehicle and Starship to transport astronauts between the lunar surface and a space station under development it calls the “Gateway”, to allow for a permanent human presence on the moon.
Under this award, the Blue Origin-led team will develop the landing system for the Artemis V mission, which is currently set to launch no earlier than September 2029. The two SpaceX missions are scheduled for Artemis III and Artemis IV.
NASA selected SpaceX to develop a Starship Human Landing System in April 2021 at a price of around $2.9 billion. It was notable at the time that the agency selected only one vendor for the task; so remarkable, in fact, that competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics filed protests with a major government watchdog over the decision. Those protests were dismissed.
However, pressure on the agency to select a second provider mounted from other sources, notably Congress, and last March, NASA announced it would open competition for a second landing system. For that reason, SpaceX was not eligible to compete for this contract. However, he and this team will be eligible to compete for future crewed missions to the moon beyond Artemis V.
NASA’s Artemis program is incredibly ambitious. The agency wants to maintain a cadence of about one mission a month, with astronauts staying on the moon for up to thirty days at a time.
“A second lander and an additional different lander will help ensure that we have the necessary hardware for a number of missions to carry out scientific and technological development on the surface of the moon,” said NASA Administrator, Bill Nelson, during a press conference.