NASA Pauses Work with SpaceX on Human Landing System Due to Blue Origin Lawsuit

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: SpaceX)

NASA said on Thursday that it had again halted work with SpaceX on the human lunar lander due to a lawsuit filed in federal court by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin that alleges the single award to Elon Musk’s space company was flawed.

“NASA has voluntarily paused work with SpaceX for the human landing system (HLS) Option A contract effective Aug. 19 through Nov. 1. In exchange for this temporary stay of work, all parties agreed to an expedited litigation schedule that concludes on Nov. 1. NASA officials are continuing to work with the Department of Justice to review the details of the case and look forward to a timely resolution of this matter,” the space agency said in a statement.

“NASA is committed to Artemis and to maintaining the nation’s global leadership in space exploration With our partners, we will go to the Moon and stay to enable science investigations, develop new technology, and create high paying jobs for the greater good and in preparation to send astronauts to Mars,” the statement said.

it is the second stop issued on the $2.9 billion contract that NASA awarded to SpaceX on April 16. Work was halted after Blue Origin and the other unsuccessful bidder, Dynetics, appealed the award to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

GAO denied the appeal on July 30. Blue Origin subsequently filed suit in the the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Blue Origin has claimed that NASA unfairly judged its proposal for a vehicle to return astronauts to the moon under the Artemis program while downplaying the risks and problems with SpaceX’s approach. Blue Origin led the National Team group that also included Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper.

NASA has denied the charges. The space agency said that it only had enough funds to award a single contract. SpaceX’s proposal was about half the cost of Blue Origin’s plan. Blue Origin has since said it was willing to reduce its bid by $2 billion in order to get NASA to award a second lander contract.

in rejecting the protests, GAO said NASA had explicitly told bidders that it reserved the right to award a single contract if it received less money in its budget.