30 April 2020
Blue Origin and SpaceX win contracts to develop NASA's Moon spacecraft
By Jon Fingas


As it teased earlier in the week, NASA has awarded contracts in its quest for a Moon landing ó and itís a big win for the upstarts in the spaceflight industry. The administration has chosen Blue Origin, SpaceX and IT firm Dynetics to compete against each other in developing lunar landing systems for the Artemis program. Blue Origin received the largest award due to its significant early progress, receiving $579 million, while Dyneticsí team-up with Sierra Nevada earned it $253 million. SpaceX received $135 million to help with its Starship-based project.

The contracts last through February 2021 and task the companies with performing initial demonstration missions. After that, NASA will pick at least two of the companies to develop more mature systems on its way to final landing hardware.

Itís equally notable whoís missing. While NASA has typically leaned on more established companies like Boeing for contracts, theyíre no-shows in this process. The space agency didnít tell the Washington Post why Boeing wasnít on the shortlist, but its Starliner and SLS woes didnít help matters. NASA clearly wasnít convinced by the companyís proposed landing system.

Whichever projects succeed, the companies involved will be under a lot of pressure. NASA and the White House still want a crewed Moon landing by 2024, even with a wary Congress and the COVID-19 pandemic potentially influencing plans. Thatís not a lot of time to develop and test a lunar landing project even with some of the work already done. Still, the competing companies are known for being agile compared to incumbents ó they might stand the best shot at success.


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