NASA has selected five companies, including SpaceX and Blue Origin, to mature lunar lander concepts.
Announced September 14, the five contracts were awarded to Blue Origin, Dynetics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and SpaceX. The value of the contracts varies widely from as little as $9.4 million awarded to SpaceX to $40.8 million awarded to Dynetics.
Each of the five companies is tasked with developing and maturing lunar lander design concepts, which includes the mitigation of risk through critical component testing. The work done by the companies will inform NASA’s future solicitations to provide regular access to the lunar surface for the agency’s astronauts.
“Establishing a long-term human presence on the Moon through recurring services using lunar landers is a major Artemis goal,” said NASA associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, Kathy Lueders.
The awarding of this latest round of Artemis lunar lander contracts comes amid ongoing litigation that has halted work on a contract awarded to SpaceX for the first crewed Artemis mission to the lunar surface.
NASA awarded the $2.89 billion contract to SpaceX in April. Following the announcement, both Blue Origin, and Dynetics, two companies that had bid on the contract, filed a protest with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).
On July 30, the GAO released a statement confirming that it had decided for NASA and SpaceX rejecting the protests from Blue Origin and Dynetics.
Just prior to the GAO’s decision being made public, Blue Origin offered to waive $2 billion in fees to secure a lunar lander contract in an open letter to NASA administrator Bill Nelson. NASA and Nelson declined to comment.
Following the GAO’s decision, Blue Origin leadership decided to file legal action against NASA challenging the decision. The complaint stated that SpaceX had been given an unfair advantage when NASA allowed it to amend its bid. This process is still ongoing.