Bezos’ Blue Origin Scores Big NASA Lunar Lander Contract In Competition With SpaceX

hero blue origin concept moon lander
NASA has announced that Blue Origin will be developing the human landing system for the agency's Artemis V mission to the Moon. The aerospace and defense technology company owned by Jeff Bezos will design, develop, test, and verify its moon lander to meet NASA's human landing system requirements for multiple expeditions to the moon, and docking with the yet-to-be-built Gateway space station.

The contract between NASA and Blue Origin also includes one uncrewed demonstration mission to the moon before sending a crewed demo on the Artemis V mission, currently scheduled for 2029. Blue Origin and its partners will develop and fly both a lunar lander that can make precision landings anywhere on the Moon's surface and a cislunar transporter. The contract awards Blue Origin with $3.4 billion to complete all of NASA's requirements.

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"Today we are excited to announce Blue Origin will build a human landing system as NASA's second provider to deliver Artemis astronauts to the lunar surface," remarked NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "We are in a golden age of human spaceflight, which is made possible by NASA's commercial and international partnerships. Together, we are making an investment in the infrastructure that will pave the way to land the first astronauts on Mars."

Blue Origin says the vehicles will be powered by LOX-LH2, which provides "a dramatic advantage for high-energy deep space missions," according to a press release by the company. It also says it will make high-performance LOX-LH2 a storable propellant combination.

The Artemis V mission will send four astronauts to lunar orbit aboard the Orion spacecraft. Once docked with the upcoming Gateway space station, two astronauts will transfer to Blue Origin's human landing system for a nearly weeklong rendezvous with the Moon's South Pole region. The astronauts will conduct science and exploration experiments as well.

spacex lunar lander concept
SpaceX lunar lander concept.

NASA previously selected SpaceX to demonstrate an initial human landing system for the Artemis III mission. Under that contract, SpaceX will also evolve its design to meet NASA's requirements for demonstrating sustainable exploration of the lander on the Artemis IV mission. SpaceX was awarded $2.89 billion for its milestone-based contract.

"Having two distinct lander designs, with different approaches to how they meet NASA's mission needs, provides more robustness and ensures a regular cadence of Moon landings," explained Lisa Watson-Morgan, Human Landing System Program Manager. "This competitive approach drives innovation, brings down costs, and invests in commercial capabilities to grow the business opportunities that can serve other customers and foster a lunar economy."