NASA has halted work on the contract for the new SpaceX probe, worth $ 2.9 billion, while a federal monitoring agency is adjudicating two protests over the awarding of the deal, the agency reported and reported on the Verege.
The human landing system has been suspended until the GAO makes a decision on the two protests, which means that SpaceX will not immediately receive the first part of the $ 2.9 billion deal, and the initial talks with NASA that usually take place at the start of the main decade will not begin.
NASA chose SpaceX Elon Musk on April 16 to build the first human lander on the surface of the Moon since the Apollo program, as the agency chose to rely on only one company for a high-profile contract that many in the space industry expected would go to two companies.
As a result, two companies that were in the process of running for the contract, Blue Origin and Dynetics, protested NASA’s decision before the Government Accountability Office, which adjudicates bidding disputes. Blue Origin alleges that the agency “unfairly moved bases at the last minute” and jeopardized NASA’s 2024 express schedule by choosing only SpaceX.
“Based on the Government Accountability Office protests, NASA has instructed SpaceX that progress on the HLS contract has been suspended until the GAO resolves all pending lawsuits related to these purchases,” NASA spokeswoman Monica Witt said in a statement.
Starship, SpaceX’s fully reusable rocket system under development to transport humans and cargo to the Moon and Mars, won the NASA deal primarily for its massive cargo capacity and its proposed $ 2.9 billion bid – which is significantly cheaper than Blue Origin and Dynetics, according to a NASA source selection document.
Starship’s development up to this point has been mainly driven by Elon Musk, SpaceX billionaire founder and CEO. The company launched several prototypes of the spacecraft on short and high altitude test flights at launch facilities in Boca Chica, Texas. Landing the prototypes after flying more than six miles in the air proved to be a formidable challenge – all of the prototype SpaceX high-altitude missiles were destroyed in landing phase explosions.
The development of SpaceX’s spacecraft will likely continue. The company’s latest test of the Starship’s prototype, SN15, is set to launch within the next few days after securing licensing approval from the Federal Aviation Administration this week.
NASA said choosing one company was the best decision they could make at the time with the money available from Congress. Last year, Congress awarded the agency $ 850 million of the $ 3.3 billion it had requested to purchase two lunar landers.
Cathy Loaders, the head of human spaceflight at NASA at the time, said the SpaceX deal was a major “first step” in a broader program to secure transport to the moon, and promised to open new contractual opportunities in the near future.