Lockheed Martin Corp (IW500/24). won a $4.6 billion contract to build at least six Orion spacecraft to carry astronauts to the moon.
The deal covers $2.7 billion for the first three vehicles and an additional $1.9 billion for another three in the 2022 fiscal year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said in a statement Monday. NASA may eventually order another six Orion capsules for its Artemis moon missions by Sept. 30, 2030.
The first spacecraft from the deal is designed to be ready in 2024, the year NASA has targeted for returning astronauts to the moon’s surface. NASA has tagged Orion and Boeing Co.’s Space Launch System rocket as keystones of its deep-space exploration goals. The agency also plans a Lunar Gateway, a future small spacecraft designed to orbit the moon, as part of its Artemis plans.
Lockheed’s NASA contract specified that the Orion program would be managed from the Johnson Space Center near Houston. The announcement came a month after the agency angered the Texas congressional delegation by awarding the Artemis lander program to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.
NASA’s news release on the contract quoted both Texas senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, as well as Representative Brian Babin, a Republican whose district includes the Johnson Space Center. All three had asked NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to reconsider the lunar lander decision.
Lockheed will assemble the vehicles at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, while maintaining an engineering team in the Denver area.