NASA said it has paused work on the SpaceX lunar lander in the wake of a lawsuit filed by rival Blue Origin, and hopes to bring the legal case to a swift conclusion.

“In exchange for this temporary stay of work, all parties agreed to an expedited litigation schedule that concludes on Nov. 1. NASA officials are continuing to work with the Department of Justice to review the details of the case and look forward to a timely resolution of this matter,” the agency said in a  statement issued on August 19, 2021.

According to NASA, the halt is “voluntary”, and the agency remains committed to the Artemis program, which aims to land astronauts on the moon by 2024.

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has lodged a federal court complaint claiming NASA used a flawed selection process when deciding to award Elon Musk’s SpaceX with the $9.2 billion contract.

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Blue Origin accuses NASA of favoring its competitor SpaceX when awarding the Artemis program, which plans to return astronauts to the Moon in 2024.
 

This is the second time work on the new lunar mission has stopped. In April 2021, Blue Origin and Dynetics issued protest notes to NASA, which prompted the agency to suspend the funding and halt the project for several months.

The US Government Accountability Office rejected the protest, but the decision did not stop Blue Origin from pursuing its claims further.

According to Bezos, the decision to select only the SpaceX project out of the three that were on the table is unsafe and stifles the competition. NASA retorted that Elon Musk’s company made a proposal that was “considerably cheaper”, and the agency did not have a choice due to budget cuts.