Blue Origin’s Messy Struggle With NASA Is Truly Delaying US Moon-Touchdown Effort

Jeff Bezos laughs as he speaks about his flight on Blue Origin’s New Shepard into house throughout a press convention on July 20, 2021 in Van Horn, Texas. Joe Raedle/Getty Pictures

Blue Origin on Thursday scored a small win in its relentless combat for NASA’s Human Touchdown System (HLS) contract. Though the Jeff Bezos-led firm hasn’t formally received the job but, its lawsuit towards NASA within the U.S. Court docket of Federal Claims has put the company’s work with SpaceX on maintain.

Final Friday, Blue Origin filed a criticism with the U.S. Court docket of Federal Claims, difficult NASA’s determination in April to pick SpaceX as the only contractor of HLS. The lawsuit got here after Blue Origin misplaced an enchantment earlier than the U.S. Authorities Accountability Workplace.

On Thursday, the court docket issued the schedule for the swimsuit, which included a “NASA Voluntary Keep of Efficiency” clause that might lead to a roughly three-month pause in NASA’s ongoing work with SpaceX.

“NASA has voluntarily paused work with SpaceX for the human touchdown system (HLS) Choice A contract efficient Aug. 19 by way of Nov. 1,” NASA mentioned in a press release on Thursday. “In trade for this short-term keep of labor, all events agreed to an expedited litigation schedule that concludes on Nov. 1.”

In an interview with SpaceNews on Thursday, NASA Administrator Invoice Nelson mentioned the case is dealt with by the Justice Division.

“This can be a matter that’s out of our arms,” he informed the publication. “The decide might require, in essence, very laborious discovery.”

Because of this, the dispute will delay NASA’s plan to return American astronauts to the moon by 2024 by way of the Artemis Program, below which the HLS contract falls.

“NASA officers are persevering with to work with the Division of Justice to assessment the small print of the case and look ahead to a well timed decision of this matter,” the company mentioned in Thursday’s assertion.

Blue Origin, SpaceX, and a 3rd agency known as Dynetics submitted bids for NASA’s HLS contract in March 2020. Though previously NASA has awarded a number of contracts for a single venture, such because the Industrial Crew Program, this time the company chosen just one contractor, SpaceX, citing budgeting causes.

In response to a report launched by the GAO on July 30 responding to Blue Origin’s criticism, NASA had acquired solely $850 million from Congress in fiscal yr 2021 for the HLS program, with an extra $96 million from different applications that might fund HLS. Practically $400 million of that funding was already spent on the “base interval” awards NASA gave to Blue Origin, SpaceX and Dynetics in 2020. About $200 million has been reserved for inside prices for this system. That left the company solely $355 million obtainable for brand new HLS awards in 2021.

NASA has already paid SpaceX $300 million as a part of its $2.9 billion sole contract. Nelson mentioned he didn’t know if it was attainable to search out funding for a second HLS contract to Blue Origin.