Lockheed Martin lands $4.6B NASA deal for new space fleet

Katie Ramirez
March 20, 2020

NASA's Artemis program is expected to kick off in 2024 with a new crewed mission to the Moon.

Altogether, NASA plans to buy hardware for up to a dozen Orion spacecraft by 2030 - with numerous systems reused from the previous vehicles. The space agency plans to order an additional three ships in fiscal year 2022 for an additional $1.9 billion.

The Orion capsule must be able to bring astronauts to the Moon and back, and it must also be capable of traveling to Mars and beyond. NASA has partnered with the European Space Agency (ESA) to produce service modules for Orion.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz hailed "a great day for the men and women at Johnson Space Center" as NASA awarded the contract for building Orion spacecraft to Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado. He also reiterated that, after the Artemis 3 mission in 2024, NASA planned one Orion launch a year, meaning that if all the options in the contract are exercised, it will cover NASA's mission needs well beyond 2030.

NASA also hopes to be cost-efficient through spacecraft reuse: It's hoping to re-fly the Orion capsules it's purchasing at least once per spacecraft, beginning with Artemis II, the first crewed mission in the Artemis program, which will aim to do a Moon flyby but not actually touch down on the lunar surface.

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NASA placed an initial order for three Orion spacecraft for its Artemis moon missions for $2.7 billion.

Spacecraft reusability - itself a significant cost saver for the agency - will help NASA build the capabilities for sustainable exploration at the Moon and beyond.

But, as with the lunar lander program run by Marshall, much of the Orion work will be done at locations other than the Johnson Space Center. Interior components of the spacecraft, such as flight computers and other high value electronics, as well as crew seats and switch panels, will be re-flown on Artemis V. The Artemis III crew module will be re-flown on Artemis VI. John Cornyn of Texas.

At a September 18 hearing of the House Science Committee's space subcommittee, Ken Bowersox, the acting associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said he expected the long-term Orion contract to be completed "fairly soon" and that the agency would transition from cost-plus to fixed-price awards. "Driving down cost and manufacturing them more efficiently and faster will be key to making the Artemis program a success", said Mike Hawes, Orion program manager for Lockheed Martin Space.

For the doubters, this is it: the production line has been set in motion for the first mission to put astronauts on the Moon since Apollo 17 in December 1972.

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