US space agency NASA has told Elon Musk’s SpaceX to halt work under a contract it won to develop a lunar spacecraft, pending the outcome of challenges by rival bidders at the US Government Accountability Office. Blue Origin on Monday filed a protest with the GAO, arguing among other things that NASA gave SpaceX the chance to revise its bid but did not give that chance to Blue Origin. Blue Origin also argues the decision extends SpaceX’s “monopolistic” control in space exploration. Originally, NASA was expected to pick two out of the possible three companies (SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics) competing for the contract, but made an alleged last-minute decision to opt for just the SpaceX proposal. Blue Origin and Dynetics, protested NASA’s decision.
Blue Origin’s human landing system (HLS) proposal was markedly more expensive than SpaceX’s, coming in at a sizeable $5.99 billion compared to SpaceX’s $2.89 billion. Putting the Human Landing System (or HLS) work on hold until the GAO makes a decision on the two protests means SpaceX won’t immediately receive its first chunk of the $2.9 billion award. SpaceX’s private Starship development will likely continue. Musk, a man known for settling matters on social media, responded in a tweet stating Blue Origin “Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol,” poking fun at their lack of a successful launch into orbit in any of their rockets. He also followed up with a picture of Blue Origin’s lunar lander, photoshopped with “Blue Balls” on it.