NASA Commits to Using Orion Capsule for up to 12 Artemis Missions

NASA has awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin to produce up to 12 Orion spacecraft.
Image credit: NASA/Radislav Sinyak

NASA has awarded Lockheed Martin with a contract to produce a minimum of six and as many as twelve Orion spacecraft. The spacecraft will be utilized to achieve the United States’ goal of returning to the Moon and building a sustainable presence on the lunar surface.

The Orion Production and Operations Contract (OPOC) was awarded to Lockheed Martin on September 23. The contract commits NASA to order a minimum of six Orion spacecraft and as many as twelve with an ordering period through September 30, 2030.

Orion orders will be made in batches of three which, according to a NASA statement, will allow the agency to “benefit from efficiencies that become available in the supply chain over time – efficiencies that optimize production and lower costs.”

The first set of three Orion spacecraft will cost $2.7 billion and will be utilized for Artemis missions III through V. The agency then plans to order an additional three Orion spacecraft in 2022 for Artemis missions VI through VIII at a cost of $1.9 billion.

OPOC commits NASA to a decade-long contract that will span several presidencies. In the past, a change in administration, especially a shift from a Republican-lead administration to a Democratic one has resulted in a loss of political support for manned space programs. With NASA only committing to purchasing the first three Orion spacecraft, it is not a stretch to consider that the second set of three spacecraft many never receive the $1.9 billion in funding.

If all twelve orders are paid for in full, the first six will be ordered on a cost-plus-incentive-fee structure. NASA hopes that following the production of the first six, Lockheed Martin will have optimized the manufacturing process. As a result, the subsequent six spacecraft will be negotiated as fixed-firm-price orders to take full advantage of production cost decreases.

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.