NASA buys $4.6B in capsules from Lockheed Martin for upcoming moon missions

2nd December, 2021.      //   Market Intelligence, Space Travel, Technology  // 

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NASA ordered $4.6 billion worth of spaceships from Lockheed Martin Space on Monday, purchases that bought the space agency rides for missions returning U.S. astronauts to the moon.

The space agency Monday afternoon revealed deals covering the production and operation of at least six Orion capsules by Jefferson County-based Lockheed Martin Space. The order includes the spacecraft to be used in the next U.S. moon-landing mission, scheduled for 2024, and in the preparation flights to the moon under the Artemis program, NASA said.

“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,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, in a prepared statement. “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.”

A $2.7 billion contract covers three Orion capsules to be built for the third, fourth and fifth Artemis program flights. A follow-up order in the 2022 federal fiscal year budgets $1.9 billion for three more Orion capsules Lockheed Martin Space will build for a trio of Artemis program missions.

“This contract clearly shows NASA’s commitment not only to Orion, but also to Artemis and its bold goal of sending humans to the Moon in the next five years,” said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space. “We are equally committed to Orion and Artemis and producing these vehicles with a focus on cost, schedule and mission success.”

The contracts also give NASA the option of ordering up to six more Orion capsules, for a total of 12, by Sept. 30, 2030.

NASA first hired the aerospace company in 2006 to design and build the Orion capsules as part of the Constellation program of President George W. Bush’s administration, which set the goal of landing U.S. astronauts on Mars.

The Orion capsule is the first spacecraft designed to fly beyond earth orbit into deep space, carrying as many as four astronauts and an attached service module on months-long missions.

Development of Orion has cost about $12 billion, which paid for design of spacecraft and production of the first Orion capsules for test flights, and for two capsules for upcoming missions readying NASA for the 2024 return of people to the lunar surface.

An Orion capsule being tested at a NASA facility in Plum Brook Station, Ohio, is scheduled to be delivered to NASA early next year as ready to launch on a three-week test mission around the moon without crew.

A second Orion is being assembled now at a Lockheed facility on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the first crewed flight of the spacecraft, scheduled for 2022.

Lockheed Martin Space has a learned a lot about the advanced manufacturing processes needed to make Orion capsules, and designing them for reuse, said Mike Hawes, the company’s Orion program manager.

“Driving down cost and manufacturing them more efficiently and faster will be key to making the Artemis program a success,” he said. “One must also appreciate how unique Orion is. It’s a spaceship like none other. We’ve designed it to do things no other spacecraft can do, go to places no astronaut has been and take us into a new era of human deep space exploration.”

The Orion capsules have flown once into orbit during a 2014 test flight without crew that was declared a success.

Each capsule is designed to fly multiple times.


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