SpaceX Wins Single-Source Contract for Human Landing System

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: SpaceX)

The Washington Post is reporting that SpaceX has won a single-source contract to develop the Human Landing System (HLS) based on its Starship design that will take humans back to the moon.

SpaceX beat out Dynetics and the Blue Origin-led National team that included Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper. SpaceX’s $2.9 billion bid was well below that of its competitors, according to the Post.

It’s an interesting decision. NASA had been looking to award multiple contracts and then to down select at a later date. Maybe a lack of money forced the space agency’s hand.

What’s really strange is the leak to the Post and the hastily called news conference to announce the decision set for today at 4 p.m. EDT. The audio only teleconference was announced like an hour ago. You can listen in at: http://www.nasa.gov/live

NASA usually tightly holds procurement information for legal reasons.It’s unusual that the decision was leaked, and on a Friday afternoon at that.

The HLS contract is a big effing deal of the type whose announcement is made with great care and planned well in advance. To announce it late on a Friday afternoon on the same day NASA is dealing with the arrival of the next International Space Station crew at the Cape and the return of astronauts to Earth from the station smacks of almost trying to bury the announcement.

Why? A single source contract to SpaceX is going to roil some feathers on Capitol Hill. Especially among backers of the National Team.

It will be interesting to see how NASA explain all this.