May 25, 2022

NASA will give another company the option to send a lander to the moon nearly a year after the agency announced that SpaceX has given the option to competitors including Blue Origin and Boeing.

Under the new plan, the agency will open competition for the second lander system to all US companies except SpaceX, which aims to have a second lander ready for flight by 2026 or 2027. The winner of this second contract was named the Lunar Sustainability Agreement. , along with SpaceX, “will pave the way for future recurring lunar transportation services for astronauts on the Moon,” NASA said.

This is not only good news for the contestants. The agency also said it is expanding its existing contract with SpaceX for another lander, which will go on a manned and uncrewed demonstration flight later this decade.

NASA’s Wednesday announcement marks a significant expansion of the Artemis program, the agency’s ambitious series of missions to return humans to the Moon for the first time since Apollo.

This is also a tricky thing. The agency has come under fire from both the private sector and Congress after SpaceX was awarded a $2.89 billion contract for the landing system last April and Blue Origin went so far as to file a lawsuit against NASA in federal court. (This came after the company and defense contractor Dianetics filed an appeal that was later dismissed because the government was responsible for oversight.) But this time, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said the agency was going to… promote competition.

“We believe, and Congress believes, that competition produces better, more reliable results and benefits everyone,” he said. “It benefits NASA, [it] Benefit the American people. The benefits of competition are clear.”

HLS program manager Lisa Watson-Morgan told reporters on Wednesday that the agency would release a draft request for proposals later in the month. The final application for proposals will come later in the spring and will be open to all US companies except SpaceX.

Until now, NASA has kept quiet about how much all of this could cost, otherwise it will be a fixed-price contract, which is important, the agency says, in part because it has chosen only one bidder for the landing system. last year due to budget constraints. Nelson said more details on the contract’s value will come next week after President Biden announces the fiscal year 2023 budget.

“We both expect from Congress”[‘s] Support this Biden administration as well,” he said.

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