After rival billionaire businessman Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin sued the US government, NASA decided on Thursday to temporarily halt development on a $2.9 billion lunar lander contract given to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Blue Origin’s action, which was filed last week in the US Court of Federal Claims, was described as an “effort to correct the deficiencies in the acquisition process revealed in NASA’s Human Landing System.” The case will be heard on October 14 by a US judge.
NASA said in a statement that work on the human landing system with SpaceX has been postponed until Nov. 1.
“All parties agreed to an expedited litigation timeline that closes on November 1 in exchange for this temporary stoppage of work,” the US space agency stated. “NASA officials are continuing to engage with the Department of Justice to analyze the details of the case and anticipate a prompt resolution.”
Last month, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) rejected Blue Origin’s challenge against NASA’s choice to select a single lunar lander provider.
SpaceX, led by Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk, intervened in the case this week to ensure the court gets “a complete and accurate picture of the facts and circumstances underlying this complaint, including the severe harm that SpaceX will suffer if the court granted the relief sought” by Blue Origin.
A request for comment from SpaceX was not immediately returned.
Blue Origin, the rocket business created by Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, has stated that it remains persuaded that NASA’s judgment had “fundamental flaws,” which the GAO was unable to resolve “due to their restricted jurisdiction.”
Under NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to send humans to the moon for the first time since 1972, the agency requested designs for a spacecraft that would transport astronauts to the lunar surface.
On Thursday, the space agency announced that it “is dedicated to Artemis and to keeping the United States at the forefront of space research. We will go to the moon and stay there with our partners to enable research investigations, build new technology, and generate high-paying employment for the common good, as well as to prepare to send astronauts to Mars.”
NASA awarded SpaceX a contract in April to build such a spacecraft by 2024.
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