NASA awards major Artemis contract for at least six Orion spacecraft

Brittany A. Roston - Sep 24, 2019, 3:14pm CDT
NASA awards major Artemis contract for at least six Orion spacecraft

NASA anticipates a long line of Artemis missions — as many as 12, the space agency said today — which is why it has awareded a new contract to Lockheed Martin for as many as six Orion spacecraft. Called the Orion Production and Operations Contract (OPOC), this deal taps Lockheed for between six and 12 Orion spacecraft through the year 2030.

NASA’s Artemis program will kick off with the Artemis-1 mission next summer, introducing the uncrewed flight of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. This will be the first of what NASA says will be a series of ‘increasingly complex’ missions, the idea being to get humans back on the lunar surface in 2024.

NASA says its newly awarded contract is an indefinite-delivery and indefinite-quantity deal that guarantees a minimum order of six Orion spacecraft and as many as a dozen spacecraft leading through September 2030. These spacecraft will be for six to 12 future missions, ensuring Orion production will be in place for the next decade.

NASA is placing a $2.7 billion order for three Orion spacecraft intended for its future Artemis III to Artemis V missions. Another three spacecraft will be ordered for Artemis VI to VIII for $1.9 billion in the space agency’s 2022 fiscal year. NASA plans to reuse the Orion crew modules at least once in cases where they can be recovered, something it says will significantly reduce costs.

Orion Program manager Mark Kirasich said:

No other spacecraft in the world can keep humans alive hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth for weeks at a time with the safety features, crew accommodations, technical innovations, and reliability that Orion provides. With the design and development phase of Orion largely behind us, this new contract will enable us to increase efficiencies, reuse the spacecraft, and bring down the cost of reliably transporting people between earth and the Gateway.

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