Last week it was announced that the name Orion had been selected for NASA's next generation crew exploration vehicle (CEV). Yesterday it was announced that Lockheed Martin would be responsible for building the vehicle that will be pivotal in once again landing Americans back on the moon. The Orion CEV contract is worth an estimated $4 billion USD.
The Orion CEV will not only be responsible for transporting astronauts to the moon, but in earlier missions it will serve as a Space Shuttle successor transporting up to six crew members to and from the International Space Station. Only a crew of four is possible for lunar missions.
“We are humbled and excited as we continue our legacy of five decades of partnership with NASA in every aspect of human and robotic space exploration. Work already is underway and we are fully focused on the vital tasks that lie ahead to meet NASA’s requirements for the program. We have a world-class team of highly dedicated, highly experienced women and men who are passionate about the success of NASA’s missions,” Joanne Maguire, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.
The Orion CEV is designed to be not only much safer than previous manned space vehicles, but it will also be more efficient, more reliable and more affordable as well. NASA hopes to have the new crew vehicle operational by 2014 with manned missions to the moon taking place before 2020.