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Blue Origin wins NASA contract to compete with SpaceX's Starship on the Moon

Agency selects Jeff Bezos' company as second Artemis provider

Design of a module on the lunar surface

Blue Origin won a major contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Friday to develop a manned module to take astronauts to the lunar surface later this decade. Space company Blue Origin won the contract on Friday, May 19, 2023, to develop a manned lunar lander to carry astronauts later this decade under the Artemis program. Last year, NASA awarded SpaceX an additional $1.15 billion under the HLS contract, exercising an option to purchase a second manned demonstration landing from the company. That brings the total value of SpaceX's HLS contract to $4.2 billion through 2027. To date, NASA has paid about $1.8 billion to Elon Musk's company under the HLS, according to federal filings.

The team led by Blue Origin – and which includes Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Draper, Astrobotic and Honeybee Robotics – outperformed Dynetics, which is owned by Leidos. Other proposals were expected, but likely won't be revealed until NASA releases documents explaining its selection process. Known as the Sustaining Lunar Development (SLD) program, the competition was effectively a second-chance contest that the agency organized after SpaceX of Elon Musk was the only winner of the first crew landing contract in 2021.

Here is the official information from the American space agency:

“To develop a manned landing system for the agency's Artemis V mission to the Moon, NASA selected Blue Origin of Kent, Washington. Through Artemis, NASA will explore the Moon further than ever before, making more scientific discoveries and preparing for future astronaut missions to Mars. Blue Origin will design, develop, test and verify its Blue Moon lander to meet manned landing system requirements for recurring astronaut expeditions to the lunar surface, including docking with the Gateway, a space station where crew transfers on lunar orbit. In addition to design and development work, the contract includes an unmanned demonstration mission to the surface ahead of a manned demonstration on the Artemis V mission in 2029.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson

"Today we are excited to announce that Blue Origin will build a landing system as the second supplier to take Artemis astronauts to the lunar surface," said agency administrator Bill Nelson. “We are in the golden age of human spaceflight, made possible by NASA's commercial and international partnerships. Together, we are making an investment in the infrastructure that will pave the way for the first astronauts to land on Mars.” For the Artemis V mission, the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket will launch four astronauts into lunar orbit aboard the Orion spacecraft. Once Orion docks with Gateway, two astronauts will transfer to the Blue Origin lander for a week-long trip to the Moon's South Pole region, where they will conduct science and exploration activities.

Adding another landing system partner to the Artemis program will increase competition, reduce costs for taxpayers, support a regular cadence of lunar landings, further invest in the lunar economy, and help NASA achieve its goals on and around the Moon in preparation for the fut