A federal judge Thursday rejected a legal challenge filed by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin aerospace company over a $2.9 billion contract NASA awarded to Hawthorne-based SpaceX to shuttle astronauts to and from the surface of the Moon as part of the space agency’s ambitious Artemis program.

The ruling by Judge Richard Hertling of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims was hailed by NASA, which issued a statement saying it will resume work on the project with SpaceX “as soon as possible.”

“In addition to this contract, NASA continues working with multiple American companies to bolster competition and commercial readiness for crewed transportation to the lunar surface,” according to NASA. “There will be forthcoming opportunities for companies to partner with NASA in establishing a long-term human presence at the Moon under the agency’s Artemis program, including a call in 2022 to U.S. industry for recurring crewed lunar landing services.

“Through Artemis missions, NASA will lead the world in landing the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface, conduct extensive operations on and around the Moon, and get ready for human missions to Mars.”

NASA awarded the lucrative lunar-shuttle contract to SpaceX in April, choosing the company over Blue Origin, which filed suit in August challenging the selection process.

Bezos acknowledged the legal setback on Twitter, writing, “Not the decision we wanted, but we respect the court’s judgment and wish full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract.”

Artemis is a multi-phased project that includes the creation of a “Gateway” base orbiting the Moon, from which astronauts can be shuttled to and from the lunar surface. It is envisioned as the first step in creating a lunar outpost of sorts, with the future development of habitable spaces on the surface of the Moon and becoming a possible layover point for crewed missions to Mars.

NASA awarded the contract to SpaceX for development of a “human landing system” that will act as the shuttle between the Moon and the lunar orbit during an initial demonstration project. That demonstration will involve four astronauts who will travel to lunar orbit from Earth on a ship known as Orion. Two of them will then shuttle to the lunar surface on the SpaceX Starship lander — including the first woman to ever land on the Moon.

The two astronauts shuttled to the moon are envisioned to spend approximately one week on the surface before the SpaceX lander returns them to the orbiting base for the return trip to Earth.

The human landing system, known as Starship and powered by SpaceX’s Raptor engines, will be equipped with “a spacious cabin and two airlocks for astronaut moonwalks.”

“The Starship architecture is intended to evolve to a fully reusable launch and landing system designed for travel to the Moon, Mars and other destinations,” according to NASA.

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