The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is reportedly looking for another company to develop a second human lander to be sent to the moon alongside SpaceX, which had won the first contract last year, beating out competitors like Boeing and Blue Origin.
As part of the new plan, the space agency will be organizing a second competition where all American companies, except SpaceX, can participate to bid for a contract to build a second lander that would be operable by 2026 or 2027.
NASA said that the winner of the Sustaining Lunar Development contract, the second contract, will make way for future recurring lunar transportation services for astronauts.
Additionally, the agency will also extend its existing contract with SpaceX for another lander, which would be flying an additional, manned demonstration mission during the latter half of this decade.
This is a major development in NASA’s Artemis program, a series of missions planned to put humans on the moon again, after the Apollo missions of the 1960s.
The agency will be releasing a draft request for proposals by the end of this month, followed by a final request for proposals in the spring.
Last time, the agency had faced criticism from Congress as well as the private industry for awarding a single $2.89 billion contract to SpaceX for a landing system, with Blue Origin having even sued NASA in federal court.
However, NASA Administrator, Bill Nelson, assured that it won’t be the case this time, with the agency also supporting competition, which he added would lead to better and reliable outcomes that will benefit everybody, including NASA.
As of now, NASA has not commented on the financial aspects of the deal, apart from stating the fact it would be at a fixed price contract. This is significant because the part reason NASA gave after choosing a single bidder for the last contract was monetary constraints.
Nelson added that more details will be made available by next week, following President Biden’s announcement of the budget for the fiscal year 2023.