Blue Origin Wins $3.4 Billion NASA Contract for Lunar Lander to Compete with SpaceX’s Starship

Blue Origin, the rocket company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has won a $3.4 billion NASA contract to build an Artemis lunar lander that will provide a downstream alternative to the Starship variant already being developed by SpaceX. The company will be ferrying the Artemis astronauts from Lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon and back.[0] This new landing system is expected to be ready and tested for Artemis V, currently slated to launch in 2029.[1] Blue Origin is the second private company to receive a contract to develop a lunar lander for NASA after SpaceX. Earlier, NASA declared that SpaceX would develop the human landing system for the upcoming Artemis III and IV expeditions scheduled for 2025 and 2028, respectively.

Prior to this, SpaceX had been tasked with showcasing a preliminary human landing mechanism for the Artemis III expedition. SpaceX was also asked to evolve its design to meet requirements for sustainable exploration and to demonstrate the lander on Artemis IV.[2] With that initial contract, SpaceX plans to complete an uncrewed Starship lunar landing demonstration followed by a crewed landing delivering two astronauts to the moon's surface as a part of NASA's Artemis III mission slated for before 2030. In November 2022, NASA made revisions to the contract, enabling a modification that would provide SpaceX with an additional $1.15 billion. This funding was allocated to support the ongoing development of Starship and to procure transportation services for Artemis IV moon missions that would transport astronauts.

Blue Origin had lost a lawsuit against NASA over the decision to award the contract to SpaceX in 2021.[3] However, in 2022, NASA announced that it would develop a second human lunar lander, inviting space companies to make proposals.[4] Blue Origin, whose bid of $6 billion was more than twice that of SpaceX's, protested to the Government Accountability Office, as did Dynetics.[5] They both suffered defeat.[5] Afterwards, Blue Origin took legal action by submitting a lawsuit to the US Court of Federal Claims, however, they were unsuccessful in their case.[5] Bezos resorted to writing an open letter to Nelson as a final attempt, proposing to forego $2 billion in development expenses. However, the offer was declined as the contract had already been granted.[5]

NASA's partnership with Blue Origin will only add to this golden age of human spaceflight.[6] NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in announcing the Blue Origin award: “Our shared ambitions now are no less lofty than when President [John F.] Kennedy dared a generation of dreamers to journey to the moon.”[3] He added that having two independent landers from different providers “will increase competition, reduce costs to taxpayers, support a regular cadence of lunar landings, further invest in the lunar economy, and help NASA achieve its goals on and around the Moon in preparation for future astronaut missions to Mars.”[7]

Blue Origin's $3.4 billion contract will contribute more than half of the $7 billion Blue Moon program price tag. NASA's contract is worth approximately $3.4 billion in total.[8] Blue Origin also plans to contribute more than that amount to the development effort, Blue Origin's vice president for lunar transportation, John Couluris, said during a press conference.[9] The Blue Moon concept calls for an integrated lander that can be refueled in lunar orbit with liquid hydrogen and oxygen and reused for “multiple years and multiple missions,” Couluris said.[6] With a height of approximately 52 feet, the Blue Moon lander is entirely reusable and can fit inside the 23-foot-wide nose cone of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket.[10] The crew compartment of the spacecraft, designed to accommodate four astronauts for a maximum duration of 30 days, will be positioned on four landing legs and rocket engines.[10]

NASA's next Artemis launch will take an incremental step in proving the program's spacecraft.[11] An Orion capsule will transport a team of four astronauts on a round trip to the moon. The Orion spacecraft will carry four astronauts to lunar orbit through the Artemis V mission, launched by NASA's Space Launch System rocket. Once Orion docks with Gateway, two astronauts will then transfer to Blue Origin's human landing system, which will take them on a weeklong trip to the Moon's South Pole region.[0]

0. “NASA, Blue Origin contract: Multibillion-dollar Artemis deal awarded” USA TODAY, 19 May. 2023,

1. “Blue Origin Vs SpaceX Is Back On: NASA Awards Competitive Lunar Contract To Bezos” IFLScience, 19 May. 2023,

2. “Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos announces $3.4BILLION NASA mission to MOON ‘to stay'” The Mirror, 19 May. 2023,

3. “Bezos' Blue Origin wins NASA astronaut moon lander contract to compete with SpaceX’s Starship” CNBC, 19 May. 2023,

4. “NASA Picks Blue Origin to Build Second Moon Lander for Artemis Missions” Gizmodo, 19 May. 2023,

5. “Bezos’s Blue Origin wins NASA contract to land astronauts on the moon” The Boston Globe, 19 May. 2023,

6. “Blue Origin wins $3.4B NASA contract to build lunar lander” GeekWire, 19 May. 2023,

7. “NASA picks Blue Origin to make a second human-crewed lunar lander” The Verge, 19 May. 2023,

8. “Blue Origin to develop NASA's second lunar lander for Artemis missions” WESH 2 Orlando, 19 May. 2023,

9. “Blue Origin wins NASA contract to land people on the Moon” Axios, 19 May. 2023,

10. “NASA awards Blue Origin $3.4 billion Artemis moon lander contract” CBS News, 19 May. 2023,

11. “NASA awards new lunar landing contracts to Blue Origin” WCPO 9 Cincinnati, 19 May. 2023,

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