NASA wants more vehicles for the Artemis Program besides SpaceX

After all the legal fight between Blue Origin, SpaceX and NASA, the American space agency confirmed that it must use vehicles from other companies to drive astronauts from the Artemis Program, which aims to take man back to the Moon by 2025.

In April 2021, NASA confirmed the selection of Elon Musk’s SpaceX in a billionaire contract (US$ 3 billion, or R$ 14.54 billion, approximately) for the development of a lander module for the surface of the Moon. . At the time, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin sued the agency alleging illegality in contract selection, but lost the lawsuit.

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SpaceX photo shows the first test firing of six Raptor engines on the company’s Starship SN20 prototype rocket on November 12, 2021 at Starbase facilities near the southern Texas village of Boca Chica.

However, NASA announced last Wednesday (23) that it intends to hire another company to build a second lunar module, effectively preventing this part of the program from being totally dominated by SpaceX:

“This strategy accelerates our progress toward a sustainable, long-term capability to have a lander between 2026 and 2027,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, Human Landing System Program Manager at the Marshall Space Flight Center at NASA. NASA, Alabama, in a statement.

“We expect to have two companies to safely transport our astronauts in their little modules to the surface of the Moon, under the direction of NASA before we ask for their services, which could result in multiple experienced vendors in the market,” she added.

The strangest thing is having to win a lawsuit to, in the end, do exactly what they were complaining about, but the idea of ​​more than one company involved in the Artemis Program is not really new: the original bidding documents clearly stated that three participants would be in the election, and two would be selected. However, the same documentation gave NASA the unrestricted right to go with just one company, if it chose to do so.

NASA did not confirm, however, what led her to change her mind, considering that she proved irreducible when she was forced to testify in the lawsuit brought by Blue Origin. The agency said it intends to start a new tender (RFP, or “request for proposals”) by the end of this month, with a full tender opening by June. The idea is that the new project is compatible with the Gateway, a small station in the Moon’s orbit that will store cargo and crew that will be able to go to and from the surface – NASA has not confirmed when it intends to build this part.

According to the statement, all American companies will be eligible to participate in the new bid, except for SpaceX, considering that it already has a contract of the type. Today’s announcements do not affect the planned timetable for the Artemis 3 mission, the first in the program to be manned and to be operated by SpaceX, via the Starship spacecraft.

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