Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' space company, has won a key contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop a crewed lunar lander under the agency's Artemis program. The spacecraft will deliver astronauts to the moon's surface later this decade.
The Blue Origin team triumphed over proposals from other contenders, including one led by Leidos-owned Dynetics. This competition was effectively a second-chance contest organized by NASA after Elon Musk's SpaceX secured the sole winner of the first crew lander contract in 2021.
Both Human Landing System (HLS) and Space Launch System (SLD) are integral parts of NASA's Artemis mission aiming at landing astronauts on the moon. In December, NASA successfully completed its maiden unmanned Artemis mission involving both SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft.
This new contract is a major victory for Blue Origin as it plans to develop a four-legged lunar lander called "Blue Moon" which will follow two crewed landings by SpaceX. Scheduled for 2029, this third human landing on the moon comes as part of President Biden-endorsed Trump-era initiative - The Artemis program.
In response to losing out on contracts previously awarded to SpaceX ($2.9 billion), both Blue Origin and Dynetics filed protests with the Government Accountability Office in 2021 but were unsuccessful in overturning NASA’s decision regarding their “Blue Moon” project proposal.
"The awarding of this new contract signifies our commitment towards fostering more competition while pursuing innovative approaches," said Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator during an event in Washington D.C., adding that they want not just one but two functional lunar landers for future missions.
For Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos — who established his company back in 2000 —this latest development marks their most significant deal thus far. The company has already announced collaborations with Lockheed Martin, Boeing, spacecraft software firm Draper, and robotics firm Astrobotic for this lunar lander program.
The winning of the NASA contract to build a lunar lander further strengthens Blue Origin's position in the space industry. With plans to launch the spacecraft in May and an anticipated mission duration of up to 30 years, Blue Origin is geared towards successfully transporting astronauts between orbiting crafts and the moon’s surface on future missions.