NASA has committed to ordering more Orion spacecraft – the human-carrying linchpin of the Artemis program – for its lunar ambitions, the agency and its prime contractor said this week.
NASA said it will order at least six more and a maximum of 12 total spacecraft from Lockheed Martin through 2030 under the Orion Production and Operations Contract.
The agency has placed an initial order of three Orion spacecraft valued at $2.7 billion for Artemis flights three through five. Then in 2022, NASA is expected to place a $1.9 billion order for three more for missions six through eight.
“Ordering the spacecraft in groups of three allows NASA to benefit from efficiencies that become available in the supply chain over time – efficiencies that optimize production and lower costs,” NASA said in a release.
The Orion spacecraft needed for the first uncrewed mission targeting no earlier than late 2020 – but more likely mid-2021 – is already in place. This week’s $2.7 billion commitment secures the spacecraft for Artemis III, which in 2024 is slated to become the first human landing on the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.
Spacecraft production for the program will be managed by NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
“This contract secures Orion production through the next decade, demonstrating NASA’s commitment to establishing a sustainable presence at the moon to bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a release. “Orion is a highly capable, state-of-the-art spacecraft, designed specifically for deep space missions with astronauts, and an integral part of NASA’s infrastructure for Artemis missions and future exploration of the solar system.”
Contact Emre Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly.