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(UPI) — A federal judge on Thursday threw out Blue Origin’s latest legal attempt to block SpaceX’s $2.9 billion lunar lander contract from NASA.
“The defendant’s motion to dismiss … is granted,” federal claims court judge Richard Hertling wrote in an order, citing a sealed opinion that he also signed.
Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, had sued Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the U.S. government in August, halting work on the contract and delaying the return of U.S. astronauts to the moon.
NASA still aims to land people on the moon in 2024, although the agency acknowledges that goal is largely symbolic and may not be possible due to lack of congressional funding.
NASA did not immediately respond to a request for reaction to the dismissal. Blue Origin did not immediately respond to questions about whether it will appeal the dismissal, which could create further delays.
Most of the proceedings of the lawsuit were sealed, but Hertling directed the space companies and NASA to meet by Nov. 18 and agree to a redacted version of his opinion that could be released publicly.
The suit was about “NASA’s improper award of the [Human Landing System] Option A contract to SpaceX,” according to Blue Origin’s motion to seal.
NASA had said it would like at least two finalists to build two unique landers for upcoming Artemis moon missions. But in April, the agency gave one contract to SpaceX, blaming the single award on a lack of congressional funding.
At the time, the space agency said in a statement that it was “committed to the Artemis program and the nation’s global leadership in space exploration.”
The space agency requested $3.4 billion this year for the lunar Human Landing System, but Congress appropriated just $850 million.
Blue Origin since has criticized NASA’s decision and SpaceX’s plan for a moon landing as “immensely complex and high risk.”
SpaceX would use a modified Starship rocket for the moon landing, which is being developed at that company’s private spaceport in Boca Chica, Texas.
Jeff Bezos’ company already lost one bid to interfere with NASA’s plan when the U.S. Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog, denied on July 30 the company’s protest of the contract award.
Blue Origin’s bid was evaluated by NASA to cost $5.99 billion, about twice that of the SpaceX proposal.
But Bezos said in an open letter to NASA in July that the company would permanently waive $2 billion in payments and absorb the cost of a pathfinder mission to fly its lander in Earth orbit as a preliminary test.
The first Artemis mission, an uncrewed test flight of the SLS rocket and Orion capsule, is scheduled for launch from Florida in the next few months.