"No other spacecraft in the world can keep humans alive hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth for weeks at a time with the safety features, crew accommodations, technical innovations, and reliability that Orion provides", program manager Mark Kirasich said.
NASA completed building and outfitting the Orion crew capsule for the first Artemis lunar mission in June 2019.
The agency has awarded the Orion Production and Operations Contract (OPOC) to Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado.
Australia's commitments to the program was encouraged by Jim Morhard, the deputy administrator for NASA: "We are honored by today's statement and the strong commitment of our friends from Australia to support us in our mission to return to the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis program". He added that NASA has helped them by leasing launch facilities to them.
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"As the only vehicle capable of deep space exploration, the Orion spacecraft is critical to America's continued leadership", said Rep. Brian Babin of Texas.
NASA now plans to the uncrewed Artemis I launch in 2020 or 2021. The company said the first ship would be ready to "carry the first woman and the next man to the moon in 2024". That's NASA's mission over the next five years, and OH plays a big part in the plan.
Also included within the contract award is the production of Gateway, NASA's lunar-orbiting spaceship.
- It might be easier to just land (Space X craft) Starship on the moon rather than to convince NASA that it is possible.
"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".
Over the past 75 years, Australia's national science agency - CSIRO - has built strong capabilities and partnerships in space science and technology.