SpaceX CEO Elon Musk raises his arms under a prototype Starship rocket under construction in Boca Chica, Texas.
Steve Jurvetson on Flickr
Elon Musk’s SpaceX defeated teams led by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Leidos subsidiary Dynetics to win a nearly $ 3 billion contract to build NASA’s next manned lunar lander.
SpaceX’s contract is worth $ 2.9 billion. The Washington Post first reported the SpaceX victory on Friday.
NASA last year awarded the three teams $ 967 million and 10-month contracts to begin work on the lunar lander concepts under its Human Landing Systems or HLS program. SpaceX got the lowest of those three, at $ 135 million. Dynetics meanwhile received $ 253 million and Blue Origin $ 579 million.
NASA was expected to pick two of the three teams, making SpaceX’s single selection a surprise given the agency’s previous goals of ensuring the program would remain a competition.
The spaceship’s prototype rocket SN11 is on the launch pad at the company’s factory in Boca Chica, Texas.
For the HLS program, Musk’s company offered a variant of its Starship rocket, prototypes that SpaceX has tested at its development facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The company has conducted several successful test flights with Starship to date, although landing attempts after the last four flights at high altitude ended in a variety of fiery explosions.
HLS is part of NASA’s Artemis mission to land astronauts on the moon by 2024.
The mission was announced by President Donald Trump’s administration. President Joe Biden’s press secretary has indicated that the current administration expects to continue with Artemis.
The Bezos space company unveiled its plans to build a manned lunar lander in 2019 and announced it would partner with industry giants Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. Dynetics, owned by Leidos, teamed up with Sierra Nevada Corporation on the concept and was seen as a dark horse in the race.