NASA goes all out to support the Artemis program despite doubts that it could send humanity again to the Moon by 2024. The space agency has awarded Lockheed Martin with the Orion Production and Operations Contract (OPOC) to provide it with Orion spacecraft for future Artemis missions, together with the one which will land the first woman on the Moon. While it does not have a set quantity and delivery schedule, the contract includes a commitment for at least six and a maximum of 12 Orion vehicles until September 20th, 2030.
NASA says the crew vehicles to come out of the partnership will “establish a core set of capabilities, stabilize the production process, and show reusability of spacecraft components.” Under the contract, NASA will order three Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions III via V for $2.7 billion. (Lockheed Martin is already engaged in the first two capsules for Artemis missions I and II.) It will then order three more vehicles for Artemis missions VI via VIII for $1.9 billion in the fiscal year 2022.
The second batch will cost less because it can re-use components from the previous three. Artemis V, for instance, will use computers, crew seats and switch panels from Artemis II. In the meantime, Artemis VI will handle the whole crew module, or the habitable part of the spacecraft, from the third mission. Seeing as the program’s objective is to go to the Moon and stay there, NASA and Lockheed Martin need to discover a method to make the vehicle as low-cost as possible via reusability.