Space

NASA orders six more Orion spacecraft for deep-space missions

NASA orders six more Orion spa...
Orion is NASA’s deep space exploration spaceship
Orion is NASA’s deep space exploration spaceship that is designed to carry astronauts from Earth to the Moon and bring them safely home
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Orion is NASA’s deep space exploration spaceship
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Orion is NASA’s deep space exploration spaceship that is designed to carry astronauts from Earth to the Moon and bring them safely home
NASA Orion crew capsule for the first Artemis lunar mission
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NASA completed building and outfitting the Orion crew capsule for the first Artemis lunar mission in June 2019

NASA has signed contracts with Lockheed Martin for six Orion spacecraft. The space agency's indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) Orion Production and Operations Contract (OPOC) is for an initial half-dozen of the manned capsules, with the option for six more to be ordered by 2030 for a potential total of 12.

Currently, NASA is preparing two Orion deep-space craft for the unmanned Artemis I test mission and the manned 10-day Artemis II mission, which will make a flyby of the Moon in 2022. However, the Orion is the key component of the agency's manned deep-space program for at least the next decade that includes landing on the Moon and an eventual manned mission to Mars.

This means that the prime contractor, Lockheed, is being asked to supply additional spacecraft and support services for the Artemis III, IV, and V missions at an initial cost of US$2.7 billion in 2022 for three capsules and an additional three at $1.9 billion for Artemis VI, VII, and VII.

NASA Orion crew capsule for the first Artemis lunar mission
NASA completed building and outfitting the Orion crew capsule for the first Artemis lunar mission in June 2019

The reason for the cheaper second tranche of Orions is that Lockheed is working under a cost-plus-incentive-fee and firm-fixed-price agreement in an effort to keep down costs. The idea is that most of the costs for the Orion end up in the design, development, test, and evaluation (DDT&E) phase, while later builds will learn from earlier ones as well as benefiting from a more and more established design.

The capsule for the Artemis III mission is expected to fly in 2024 when it is scheduled to carry the first woman and the next man to the Moon via the Gateway deep-space orbital outpost. According to Lockheed, construction has been completed for the Artemis I spacecraft and work continues on the Artemis II at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"We have learned a lot about how to design and manufacture a better Orion – such as designing for reusability, using augmented reality and additive manufacturing – and we're applying this to this next series of vehicles," says Mike Hawes, Orion program manager for Lockheed Martin Space. "Driving down cost and manufacturing them more efficiently and faster will be key to making the Artemis program a success. 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."

Source: Lockheed Martin

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