NASA has designated US$2.7 billion to Lockheed Martin, the US-based aerospace and defense company for preparing three Orion capsules for its Artemis missions III-V. These missions will be carrying NASA’s first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024, The Indian Express reported.
The US space agency plans to order three more Orion capsules in the fiscal year 2022 for the Artemis missions VI-VIII, for a total of US$1.9 billion, NASA said in a press release.
“This contract secures Orion production through the next decade, demonstrating NASA’s commitment to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon to bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.
NASA says that the Orion capsule will be able to bring the astronauts to the Moon and back, it will also be capable enough to travel to other missions such as Mars and more.
“Orion is a highly-capable, state-of-the-art spacecraft, designed specifically for deep space missions with astronauts, and an integral part of NASA’s infrastructure for Artemis missions and future exploration of the solar system,” Bridenstine added.
The US space agency feels that ordering the capsules in groups of three will allow it to benefit from efficiencies which become available in the supply chain over the period of time. It should help NASA save money on production costs, the report said.
The service module of the Orion, that provides the power and propulsion for Orion during the mission, is contributed by ESA (European Space Agency), NASA said.
The Orion capsules are also designed to be reusable. The long-term plan of NASA is to reuse the recovered crew modules at least once.
According to ExtremeTech, NASA currently plans to the uncrewed Artemis I launch in 2020 or 2021. Artemis II will be the first crewed mission when it orbits the moon in 2022 or 2023. The 2024 Artemis III mission will be the first human landing on the Moon in decades and will deliver the first woman to the lunar surface.