(CTN News) – According to Reuters, NASA will announce Friday the name of the second company awarded a contract to develop a spacecraft that will allow astronauts to reach the moon’s surface.
This is a high-stakes contest between Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman.
After awarding Elon Musk’s NASA SpaceX a $3 billion contract in 2021 to allow astronauts to land on the moon for the second time since Apollo’s 1972 mission, it will become the second company in the Artemis moon programme.
In the late part of this decade, NASA and SpaceX are scheduled to launch the first missions using their Starship system.
The announcement made on Friday in Washington evokes déjà vu memories for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and defense contractor Dynetics, which is leading Northrop Grumman’s partnership with Dynetics.
This is not to say that the companies were not able to get a contract in 2021, which had been secured by Musk’s aerospace company as part of a procurement program for moon landers.
The agency said it could choose up to two companies under the program, but it made the decision to go with SpaceX due to budget constraints.
It is worth noting that this issecond opportunity offered to the founder of Amazon. Since establishing his company Blue Origin in poured millions of dollars into competing with NASA has a dominant position in satellite launches and human spaceflight.
The company Jeff Bezos owns fought unsuccessfully against Nasa’s decision to ignore its Blue Moon lander in 2021, first with a watchdog agency, as well as with a jury, after losing the contract in 2021.
Legislators and Blue Origin urged the US space agency to give it a second contract for its lunar lander so as to encourage commercial competition and ensure that the project has a backup ride for the lunar mission in the event it fails.
It was disappointing that Blue Origin did not say enough about its lunar lander proposal, beyond naming its corporate partners: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Draper Spacecraft Software, and Astrobotic Robotics.
Northrop Grumman, before switching to its formal rival Dyetics, was a key partner in Blue Origin’s unsuccessful Blue Moon bid in 2021, prior to Northrop Grumman’s switch.
As part of NASA’s Artemis mission, the company plans to use a multi-spacecraft vehicle, the Space Launch System rocket, to launch astronauts aboard the Lockheed-built Orion capsule toward the moon.
In order for the crew to reach the surface of the moon, it will dock with a lunar lander in space to ferry them the remaining distance.