NASA and Lockheed Martin have finalised a contract for the production and operations of six Orion spacecraft missions and the ability to order up to 12 in total.

Orion is NASA’s deep space exploration spaceship that will carry astronauts from Earth to the Moon and bring them safely home. Lockheed Martin has been the prime contractor during the development phase of the Orion program.

“This contract clearly shows NASA’s commitment not only to Orion, but also to Artemis and its bold goal of sending humans to the Moon in the next five years,” said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space.

“We are equally committed to Orion and Artemis and producing these vehicles with a focus on cost, schedule and mission success.”

The agency’s Orion Production and Operations Contract (OPOC) is an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contact for NASA to issue both cost-plus-incentive fee and firm-fixed-price orders. Initially, NASA has ordered three Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions III-V for $2.7 billion.

Then in fiscal year 2022, the agency plans to order three additional Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions VI-VIII for $1.9 billion, according to a release.

The first spacecraft delivered on this contract, Artemis III, will carry the first woman and the next man to the Moon in 2024, where they will dock with the Gateway and ultimately land on the surface using a lunar landing system.

“Orion is a critical part of the agency’s Artemis program to build a sustainable presence on the lunar surface and to prepare us to move on to Mars. Reusable Orion crew modules and systems, use of advanced manufacturing technologies, material and component bulk buys and an accelerated mission cadence all contribute to considerable cost reductions on these production vehicles.”

“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. Driving down cost and manufacturing them more efficiently and faster will be key to making the Artemis program a success,” said Mike Hawes, Orion program manager for Lockheed Martin Space.

“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.”

Lockheed Martin and NASA recently announced the completion of the Orion crew and service module being developed for the Artemis I mission, an uncrewed mission to the Moon. Work on the spacecraft for the Artemis II mission, the first crewed Orion flight to the Moon, is well underway at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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Mr Bell
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Mr Bell

Wow… exciting times ahead. I think NASA is correct in that we need an enduring presence on the Moon to prove technology and concepts before a move onto Mars- the daunting and hard fact is that mankind has about 1.5-2 billion years to leave the solar system and colonise space before our sun expands and we as a species and the planet Earth are toasted. or before we get taken out by an asteroid (yes like the dinosaurs) Orion is a step in the right direction but ultimately science needs to develop a safe, faster than light or near light… Read more »

Rob
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Rob

1.5 to 2 billion years? What form will mankind take by then I wonder? It certainly will not be anything like we are today, assuming of course we are around at all. Look at what we were like ‘just’ 500,000 to 1m years ago. In a billion years time we will either be extinct (most likely) or have evolved into something very different. I honestly do not think we need to worry about the sun expanding, we will be the cause of our own demise long before that happens. Plus all plant life will likely die within 600 million years… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Unless the tech is developed to stop the radiation and preserving Earth.

Given the technological advances since the 40s,a mere 70 years or so, what will be developed in even a hundred years never mind a million?

Also, what you see in the white world is far behind what’s in the Black, which emerges decades later.

There is always hope.

Rob
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Rob

Of course, I was just taking the micky at the timescales mentioned. Who knows what tech will be available in future to fight the earth’s problems.

One thing is for sure though, half the posters on UKDJ will still think you are a girl called Danielle 🙂

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Lol. Let them. I’m used to it.

Julian
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Julian

Exciting times very definitely but, if he gets there, I find the stuff that Elon Musk (EM) is doing is far more exciting than the NASA stuff. EM just did his annual update on the SpaceX Super Heavy launcher and Starship crew/cargo stage earlier this week. There is a ton of stuff about the update on the web but here is one fairly randomly chosen writeup – https://techcrunch.com/2019/09/30/spacex-details-starship-and-super-heavy-in-new-website/ It’s a 2 stage system, Super-Heavy is the sea-level and lower atmosphere launch (first) stage and “Starship” is the second stage to get to orbit but also then have enough propellant to… Read more »

James
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James

Yes exactly I find SpaceX infinitely more exciting and at the pace they’re going SLS and Orion will be obsolete if starship goes according to plan, also amazing an looking spacecraft cannot wait to see it fly

James
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James

Even the 200m starhopper flight test was a sight to see, I’ve never seen any other flight test like it

Julian
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Julian

Oops. Very slow update of comments for some reason. I couldn’t see your reply when I asked if you’d seen it. Odd. Anyway, my link might be of interest to others.

Julian
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Julian

Did you see the YouTube clip of the stubby little one flying a few weeks ago James? Only a 150 metre test flight on a cut down version using a single engine but still pretty cool so see it go up, move around a bit and come back down again. Seeing the full size one do that in hopefully only a few weeks time will be amazing.

Video is here in case you didn’t see it…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RziLyL44mSM

James
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James

I think starhopper (the little one) will form the basis for a lunar lander type craft separate from starship, but yes the video is well worth a watch. Amazing progress makes you wonder what boeing ULA etc are doing with the billions they receive as all their programs (SLS Orion starliner) have barely started engine or flight tests

spyintheskyuk
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spyintheskyuk

I thought Starhopper was basically the bottom part of the proposed Starship so as to test the basics principles before testing the whole thing, though maybe I misread it. I do agree though that it on the surface (if that is the right term) what SpaceX is achieving makes the major players look decidedly last decade or more though I will withhold my full judgement fully till we see how things develop beyond the showman stage.

Julian
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Julian

I think you’re right Spyinthesky. I wonder if James might be conflating this test-bed Musc vehicle with Jef Bezos’s Blue Origin lunar lander unveiled in May this year (https://spacenews.com/blue-origin-unveils-lunar-lander/). Given that they (Bezos & Musk) are both billionaires funding commercial space projects that announced stuff at about the same time any accidental association between the two is quite understandable. As I understand it if/when Musk’s stuff gets real it’s the whole huge Starship second stage that lands and takes off – an all or nothing deal. Go big or go home, or in the case of people brave enough to… Read more »

spyintheskyuk
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spyintheskyuk

The latest pictures of simulations of the ship in space reminds me of Fireball XL5 for those of us of a certain age. It certainly looks like a new age of space flight will be upon if it comes off. However Orion much of which is based on updated design theories and work going back to the 90s I believe (which is why it has so much of Apollo in it visually) will likely be a good and reliable low risk space vehicle needed to do much of the donkey work that NASA will be involved in in future years… Read more »

spyintheskyuk
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spyintheskyuk

I agree it does sound fantastical what Musk does and all power to him (though less to his mad bigotry) however we have to remember that this very week he has been chastised for being years late on promises to NASA to service the International Space Station while some of his schemes appear decidedly questionable beyond theory and prototype form, including his plans for the Boring Company. I think the Jury is still out with Musk as to how much is style over substance.

Trevor
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Trevor

2 billion years…. I wonder what will be going on at the Queen Vic by then?

spyintheskyuk
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spyintheskyuk

I will just say that tentacles will be so much more appropriate for holding multiple glasses of beer for the round that you are paying for with the spare one.

James
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James

Using current technology would take tens of thousands of years to reach our nearest star system and that’s assuming proxima centauri was in the right position in the sky when we left

Steve Martin
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Steve Martin

81,000 years or so, it’d have to be some kind of generation ship concept that would possibly at some point be overtaken by more technologically advanced craft as time passed.

Rob
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Rob

81,000 years? The ship would have fallen apart long before then. Blimey just think how weird the crew would be after 81,000 years of inter-breeding!

Steve Martin
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Steve Martin

Engineering would be a huge challenge. I read something a while back that suggested 100 couples would be enough for the population to remain genetically diverse.

Ulya
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Ulya

I can only assume you are not including anyone from the LGBT community, gender neutral, gender confused and whatever else is out there now in that 100. I’m sure there will be hurt feelings involved and a royal commission study needed that will take so long no one will ever leave the planet ?

Trevor
Guest
Trevor

Lets not worry about the Remainers, the Leavers will as ever be more forward looking.

Steve Martin
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Steve Martin

Unless there’s some form of artificial womb etc too then yes, we’d need heterosexual couples I’m afraid, at least initially. The Royal commission wouldn’t even get past appointing members.

Trevor
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Trevor

“We must close the mine shaft gap!”

spyintheskyuk
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spyintheskyuk

Exactly which is why I mentioned above how it would have to be almost like a mini planet (or cylinder if AC Clarke is designing it) to even have a hope of a successful concept. In reality it would be centuries of advancement and an understanding of technology and likely discoveries in the realm of sub atomic theory simply not conceived today most like, before even the thought of such a plan would go beyond the padded cell. Perhaps if we ever communicate with another civilisation we can meet half way in a thousand years or so. though likely that… Read more »

Julian
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Julian

tl;dr – we don’t actually need to break the speed of light barrier or create generational starships to open up our immediate neighbouring stars for exploration and potential colonisation. Sadly none of this is likely to happen in my lifetime though. I’m not convinced it would need to come to that (mini-planet sized generation ships) even without faster than light travel. The stake in the ground that Steve placed (off the back of James’s comment) of 81,000 years to Proxima Centauri using current technology is certainly valid and a reality check but at about 4.25 light years from earth if… Read more »

Steve Martin
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Steve Martin

Excellent post here Julian. Struck right at my admittedly nerdy heart.

Rob
Guest
Rob

My head hurts! Assuming we find technologies that make it possible to travel to the nearest star system in a few years, it would still require a crew (assuming we send people) to be away for 5 years (ish) and leave with the almost certain knowledge they are unlikely to return. Balls of steel required. Where’s Bruce Willis and his crew when you need them?

Trevor
Guest
Trevor

In that case there would be lots of time for the reruns of Eastenders.

spyintheskyuk
Guest
spyintheskyuk

I will be interested to see how we re engineer the Laws of Physics over the faster than light propulsion beyond Star Trek or indeed even the near light speed technology that is the minimum required as animal kind would be crushed well before the speed of Light was achieved under those laws as we currently know them. Not impossible perhaps that some form of Improbability Drive might be developed as we delve into the unknown of sub atomic theory but there is no evidence that will lead to a workable process that keeps humans alive (whatever we could achieve… Read more »

Steve Martin
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Steve Martin

Whilst there are theoretical possibilities to FTL travel, Einstein Rosen Bridge’s and indeed Warp bubbles, the energy requirements in both and size of the former currently mean they will remain theoretical. There is scope to develop more efficient sources of power but again, we just aren’t there. Billions needs pumping into fusion for example before it becomes economical but the will doesn’t seem to be there. Black holes are an interesting prospect if you’re looking to slingshot your craft to relativistic speeds (assuming you have engineered a craft to withstand such forces). It would be similar to current slingshot manoeuvers… Read more »

Julian
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Julian

See my fairly long post above. If we could just crack the energy issue to the stage of keeping 1g acceleration for years on end I think that quite a few stars could be within our realistic reach. If it’s taking us 12 years to build Crossrail a 10 year journey doesn’t sound so bad. Sadly we do also need to factor in the time for the “We’ve arrived” message to get back to earth but eve so I think man can take the next step without needing to wait for FTL travel.

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

I agree. We just need to change our mindset from the short term parliamentary 5 year scale to one encompassing decades.

Trevor
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Trevor

What would happen if one of those generation ships fronted up into our solar system?

Given the likelyhood of getting advance warning of us, via receiving all the tv and radio channels we have been eminating into outer space, then my guess is their reception from Eastenders and the One Show would have turned their ship round the other way pronto.

Julian
Guest
Julian

According to most science fiction novels that I’ve read featuring generational spaceships the occupants will have long since forgotten their history and will no longer realise that they are even on a space ship. The bridge and control rooms will somehow have become forgotten and inaccessible too so they also won’t have knowledge of or access to any of the technology on board except for benefiting from the automated life support systems keeping them alive.

I used to really enjoy stories about generational spaceships.

Trevor
Guest
Trevor

Yes. The other type of course is where the occupants are in hibernation. Back in the days when Dr Who produced decent stories they did both sorts.

Julian
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Julian

But stay clear of the ships where the inhabitants have all taken to cannibalism. I don’t remember Doctor Who covering that one 🙂 I agree on the decent stories. I liked the fact that a story would unfold over 6 episodes rather than the “all over and resolved in 60 minutes” stuff churned out now. It was usually totally mysterious what was going on in at least the entire first if not first two episodes. By about episode 3 I was usually used to the monsters and could watch the last few episodes from on the sofa rather than from… Read more »

Airborne
Guest
Airborne

Good timing as we will need these to ensure the 70 million people in this country are transported to the moon when Brexit happens…..what? Shit? You mean we are only leaving a trading block of nations and not moving lock stock and barrel to the moon without air, food, water, med supplies and sky sports? Damn that’s not what the remainers have been saying to anyone who would listen! Damn do you think they are possibly gilding the lilley and scaring people somewhat?

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

Woah nobody mentioned sky sports! 🙂

David Flandry
Guest
David Flandry

Its 1969 all over again.