Lockheed Martin landed a $4.6 billion contract to build a minimum of six Orion space shuttles for NASA because it aims to fulfill the Trump administration’s objective of returning astronauts to the moon, the company announced on Monday.
NASA placed an initial order for 3 Orion spacecraft for its Artemis moon missions for $2.7 billion. The space agency plans to order an additional three ships in the fiscal year 2022 for an additional $1.9 billion.
Artemis is NASA’s program to send astronauts to the moon by 2024
NASA can order as many as six additional Orion spacecraft through the contract period ending on Sept. 30, 2030. If NASA follows through on that option, Lockheed would “leverage spacecraft production cost information from the previous six missions to allow the lowest possible unit costs,” the company mentioned.
NASA stated ordering the spacecraft in groups of three permits for lower prices because of supply chain efficiencies. The Orion spacecraft is anticipated to be re-used at least once.
“This contract secures Orion production through the next decade, demonstrating NASA’s commitment to establishing a sustainable presence on the Moon to bring new information again and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” stated NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Orion is an extremely-successful, state-of-the-art spacecraft, designed specifically for deep space missions with astronauts, and an integral a part of NASA’s infrastructure for Artemis missions and future exploration of the solar system.”
Lockheed is building the vessels at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The company mentioned the first ship would be ready to “carry the first woman and the next man to the moon in 2024.”
The contract was announced amid renewed concentrate on space exploration under President Trump. White House officials urged NASA in May to accelerate its next planned moon landing to 2024, four years forward of previously scheduled.