SpaceX’s $2.9 Billion NASA Contract Suspended Amidst Protest From Rivals

According to The Verge, NASA has put a halt on all progress on the $2.9 billion USD Human Landing System (HLS) contract it awarded to SpaceX last month, while a federal watchdog adjudicates complaints by companies SpaceX was picked over.

“Pursuant to the GAO protests, NASA instructed SpaceX that progress on the HLS contract has been suspended until GAO resolves all outstanding litigation related to this procurement”, said NASA spokeswoman Monica Witt.

The contract was awarded to Starship — SpaceX’s fully reusable rocket system being developed to transport both cargo and humans, for its impressive cargo capabilities and $2.9 billion USD bid, which was lower than those of rivals Blue Origin and Dynetics.

Sticker price had become even more of a deciding factor for NASA after Congress allocated only $855 million USD of the $3.3 billion USD it had asked for to pay for two lunar landers.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which rules on bidding disputes, received two complaints in protest after NASA awarded the high-profile contract for the first lunar lander since the Apollo program to one company, SpaceX, instead of two individual companies like the space industry originally expected it to.

As part of its protest, Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin alleged NASA unfairly “moved the goalposts at the last minute” and even endangered its 2024 timeline by awarding the contract to only one company.

Suspension of work on the contract means that SpaceX won’t be able to hold talks with NASA on the matter or see a dime of its $2.9 billion award until the GAO resolves both disputes.

In the meantime, development on SpaceX’s privately-funded Starship program is expected to proceed unaffected. SpaceX is currently gearing up for the test launch of its latest Starship prototype, SN15, in the coming days.