Elon Musk’s SpaceX beats Bezos’ Blue Origin in NASA’s competition to build an astronaut lunar lander

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk ceremoniously raises his arms beneath a prototype Starship rocket under construction in Boca Chica, Texas.

Steve Jurvetson on flickr

Elon Musk’s SpaceX knocked out teams led by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Leidos subsidiary Dynetics and won a nearly $ 3 billion contract to build NASA’s next manned lunar lander.

“It’s another step in an exciting set of steps that leads us to a sustainable human landing system on the moon,” said Kathy Lueders, director of NASA’s human spaceflight program, in the agency’s announcement.

SpaceX’s order is valued at $ 2.89 billion. The Washington Post first reported on SpaceX’s victory on Friday.

NASA awarded the three teams $ 967 million last year and a 10-month contract to begin work on the lunar landing concepts as part of its Human Landing Systems (HLS) program. SpaceX received the lowest amount of the three at $ 135 million. Meanwhile, Dynetics received $ 253 million and Blue Origin received $ 579 million.

NASA was expected to select two of the three teams, which makes SpaceX’s sole selection surprising given the agency’s previous goals for the program, which is supposed to remain a competition.

Starship’s SN11 prototype rocket is on the launchpad at the company’s Boca Chica, Texas facility.

SpaceX

For the HLS program, Musk’s company offered a variation of its Starship rocket, prototypes of which SpaceX has tested at its development facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The company has had several successful Starship test flights to date, although attempts to land after the last four soaring have resulted in a multitude of fiery explosions.

NASA said their astronauts would use Starship to transfer from the agency’s Orion spacecraft when the capsule reaches lunar orbit.

HLS is part of NASA’s Artemis mission to land astronauts on the moon by 2024.

The mission was announced by the administration of President Donald Trump. President Joe Biden’s press secretary has indicated that the current administration expects to proceed with Artemis.

Bezos’ space company announced plans to build a manned lunar lander in 2019 and announced it would partner with industry giants Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. Dynetics from Leidos teamed up with the Sierra Nevada Corporation for his concept and was considered a dark horse in the race.

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