NASA and Lockheed Martin Finalize $2.7 Billion Contract Towards Lunar Expedition

"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".

"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 an agency statement about the contract. In 2022, NASA then plans to put down orders for Artemis VI through VIII, which accounts for the second batch of Orion capsules and will come in at $1.9 billion.

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.

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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 in an earlier release.

Also included within the contract award is the production of Gateway, NASA's lunar-orbiting spaceship.

For example, components such as seats, panels and valuable electronics used in Artemis II are expected to find their way into Artemis V; parts recovered from Artemis III will end up being reflown in Artemis VI; and so on.

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The first six spacecraft would be acquired on a cost-plus basis, with a firm fixed price to be negotiated for follow-up orders. Production of certain spacecraft components already designed and qualified for Orion will be provided for Gateway use, eliminating the need for the Gateway Program to develop and qualify similar components. Johnson also manages the agency's Commercial Lunar Payload Services, the first two deliveries for which are targeted to launch to the Moon in July 2021.

NASA has connected the last of the five sections of the core the Space Launch System marking a major step in the big rocket's completion. The company said the first ship would be ready to "carry the first woman and the next man to the moon in 2024". "They are crucial to our national space program, and have an undeniable legacy and record of success in advancing America's leadership in the human exploration of space".

NASA's crewed spaceflight program, which focuses on a Mars expedition and a return to the Moon, is now being carried out with the help of NASA's various partners including the European Space Agency, Canadian Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

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Recently, NASA added Australia in its list of partners for the program. Artemis II will be the first crewed mission when it orbits the moon in 2022 or 2023.

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