Elon Musk's SpaceX has reportedly won a high-profile NASA contract to land astronauts on the moon, beating out a number of deep-pocketed competitors to win the deal.

The contract, worth $2.9 billion, was first reported by The Washington Post.

Last year NASA awarded nearly $1 billion to SpaceX, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, and Leidos Holdings (LDOS -0.72%) subsidiary Dynetics to design and build landing systems for the space agency's Artemis program. Blue Origin had partnered with two of the largest defense contractors, Lockheed Martin (LMT -0.42%) and Northrop Grumman (NOC -0.38%), on its bid.

Stock photo of a rocket launch.

Image source: Getty Images.

NASA had been expected to pick two winners in an effort to ensure redundancy, but according to the Post, SpaceX was the only winning bidder. If so, SpaceX will be the contractor that returns astronauts to the moon for the first time since a 1972 Apollo mission.

An outsider just a few years ago, SpaceX has pulled off some impressive feats for NASA in recent years. Along with Boeing (BA -2.20%), SpaceX was selected to develop capsules capable of delivering astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). So far, only SpaceX has successfully flown missions to the ISS.

SpaceX intends to use its still-in-development Starship rocket for the Artemis program. Starship has experienced a number of mishaps during recent tests, but the development continues. The company has said it hopes to fly Starship into orbit before year's end.

As the Post notes, it is unclear if the 2024 timeline to reach the moon is still part of the official plan. Last year, Congress appropriated $850 million for the effort, short of the $3.3 billion NASA said it would need to meet the 2024 deadline. Furthermore, the White House only allocated $325 million for Artemis in its recent fiscal 2022 budget proposal.

While a number of companies are investing in space, there are few high-profile programs like the Artemis that offer significant government support for research and development. The loss is particularly troubling for Blue Origin, which lacks both a signature government program and the experience and defense work of Lockheed, Northrop, and Boeing.