NASA sets in motion Artemis missions with Orion production contract

NASA has announced it is committed to the Orion spacecraft production line to support as many as 12 Artemis missions, the company said.

The first mission will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024.

The agency has awarded the Orion Production and Operations Contract (OPOC) to Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado. Spacecraft production for the Orion program, managed at NASA´s Johnson Space Center in Houston, will focus on reusability and building a sustainable presence on the lunar surface.

With this award, NASA is ordering three Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions III through V for USD 2.7 billion. The agency plans to order three additional Orion capsules in fiscal year 2022 for Artemis missions VI through VIII, at a total of USD 1.9 billion. 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.

Work under this contract also will support production of NASA´s lunar-orbiting Gateway and evolving mission requirements. Production of certain spacecraft components already designed and qualified for Orion will be provided for Gateway use, eliminating the need for the Gateway Program to develop and qualify similar components.

NASA is working to land the first woman and next man on the Moon in five years as part of the agency´s Artemis program. Orion, the Space Launch System rocket and Gateway are part of NASA´s backbone for deep space exploration.

The Artemis program is the next step in human space exploration, and is part of NASA´s broader Moon to Mars exploration approach.