Lockheed Martin said the company is proud to partner with NASA to provide the Orion spacecraft for NASA’s Artemis mission. This order includes spacecraft, mission planning and support, and takes us into the 2030s. Artemis’ goal is to establish a sustainable human presence on and around the Moon by the end of the 2020s. NASA plans to use the lessons learned through the program to help astronauts reach Mars in the late 2030s or early 2040s.
The program’s first mission, Artemis 1, is scheduled to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in mid-November. It was a long journey to launch an unmanned Orion into lunar orbit and back. Artemis 1 will be the first mission for SLS and the second for Orion, which completed a brief Earth-orbiting test flight in 2014.
If all goes according to plan, Artemis 2 will launch astronauts around the moon in 2024, and Artemis 3 will land near the lunar south pole a year or so later. The sixth to eighth missions will likely take place in the late 2020s to early 2030s, when the Artemis program will be relatively mature.
NASA previously ordered three Orion capsules through the contract in 2019. So if the agency chooses, it can order six more in the future. Together, NASA and Lockheed Martin have dramatically reduced Orion’s cost over the years. The spacecraft built for Artemis missions three to five are 50 percent cheaper than Orion’s design and development stage spacecraft, Lockheed Martin representatives said. The three new capsules ordered will still be 30% cheaper.