Orion

Orion

NASA's Moon Rocket for Artemis I Rolls to Launchpad

On March 17, 2022, the Orion spacecraft atop NASA'S SLS rocket rolled out to Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center ahead of its wet dress rehearsal to test rocket operations. Upon completion of the tests, the rocket will return to the vertical assembly building for final checks before its historic launch for Artemis I later this spring. Orion will conduct critical tests during the Artemis I mission to pave the way for future missions that will take human passengers back to the Moon for the first time since 1972.

Orion Tops the SLS Rocket for NASA’s Artemis I Launch

The Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft is one step closer to going to the Moon.

The NASA spacecraft that will fly to the Moon during the Artemis I mission has been lifted onto, and mated with, NASA’s large SLS rocket. The two are inside the Vertical Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center and working toward a potential launch in mid-February. 

Orion is NASA's spacecraft that will take humans deep into space. No other spacecraft in development has the technology needed for the extremes of deep space, such as life support, navigation, communications, radiation shielding and the world's largest heat shield that will protect astronauts and help return them safely home.

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor building Orion. We are in the production phase and have finalized a contract for six Orion spacecraft missions and the ability to order up to 12 in total. The first spacecraft delivered on this contract, Artemis III, will carry the first woman and the next man to the Moon in 2024. Orion is a critical part of the agency's Artemis program to build a sustainable presence on the lunar surface and to prepare us to move on to Mars.

Orion Deep Space Technology

What puts Orion in a class all its own? The technology our engineers use to build the only exploration class spacecraft to take humans deeper into space than ever before. 

Life Support Systems: Advanced environmental control and life support systems designed for long duration missions keeps the crew safe and healthy.

Radiation Protection: Needed to protect crew and spacecraft systems from cosmic and solar radiation seen in deep space.

Heat Shield: Designed to take extreme temperatures of 5,200* coming back from the Moon at 24,700 mph, while keeping the crew safe and comfortable.

Propulsion System: The service module has 33 engines, including its large main engine that is used to provide high-power, deep space maneuvers.

Deep Space Communications & Navigation: Unique systems designed specifically for deep space travel. Where Orion is going, there are no GPS or communications satellites.

Redundancy: When coming back home quickly isn’t an option, redundant systems will ensure that critical elements such as computers remain operable if something goes wrong. 

Orion Missions and Destinations

From its inception, Orion was designed to visit a variety of destinations in our solar system. Whether in orbit around the Moon, on a three-year mission to Mars, or even other near-Earth bodies such as asteroids, Orion has unique capabilities that are needed beyond shorter missions to the International Space Station in a low-Earth orbit. In spaceflight, the destinations dictate the capability, and capability dictates needed technologies. 

Living and Working Onboard Orion

Orion is first a sealed capsule for astronauts to live in while exploring environments not capable of supporting life. Its large volume easily accommodates four astronauts. Its seats and displays can fit a variety of sizes of both male and female crew. On multi-week missions to the Moon astronauts will have to exercise and Orion has a built-in exercise machine that provides both aerobic and strength training. Orion’s environmental control system even removes the excess heat, humidity and odor during exercise. Water tanks and a dispenser provide drinking water and a simple way to rehydrate food. Even the waste management system, or lavatory, is designed for multi-week missions, privately accommodating both genders while in zero gravity. 

Testing for Success

Spaceflight is unforgiving and with astronauts onboard days and weeks away from returning to Earth, mission success is paramount. Testing before flight is a major focus to the success of the Orion program and to the safety of its crews. Orion engineers developed unique ways to test Orion systems while continuing to design and build the flight spacecraft. This includes the Structural Test Article that is a structural twin of the crew module, system module and launch abort system. These elements are going through a litany of physical structural tests to validate the spacecraft’s structural design. The Orion Integrated Test Lab in Denver was developed to test the millions-of-lines-of-software code with flight computers in a flight-like configuration. The lab runs full-up missions from launch, lunar flyby, and Earth entry, descent and landing, all in real time — and does so over and over again. 

Orion, Artemis and Human Exploration

Learn about how Orion supports other elements of NASA’s Artemis mission to the Moon and how Orion can be used to travel to Mars.
NASA’s lunar Gateway is a “space dock” that will orbit the Moon. It’s where astronauts will be able to perform revolutionary science, establish a lunar commercial economy, and build and test the system to get us to the surface of the Moon and on to Mars. It’s a central element to NASA’s Artemis program. By creating a sustainable lunar exploration program, astronauts can explore the surface of the Moon with future reusable lunar landers.
NASA has down-selected the National Team we’re part of for the next phase of the Human Landing System (HLS). The team — which is led by Blue Origin and includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper — is excited to use our combined heritage and advanced work on individual HLS elements to send astronauts to the surface of the Moon.
Mars Base Camp is Lockheed Martin’s vision for sending humans to Mars in about a decade. The concept is simple: transport astronauts from Earth, via the Moon, to a Mars-orbiting science laboratory where they can perform real-time scientific exploration, analyze Martian rock and soil samples, and confirm the ideal place to land humans on the surface in the 2030s.

Additional Information

Gary Napier
720-842-6102
gary.p.napier@lmco.com