The never-ending boondoggle: NASA today awarded Lockheed Martin a long term contract to build as many as twelve future Orion capsules.
OPOC is an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that includes a commitment to order a minimum of six and a maximum of 12 Orion spacecraft, with an ordering period through Sept. 30, 2030. Production and operations of the spacecraft for six to 12 missions will establish a core set of capabilities, stabilize the production process, and demonstrate reusability of spacecraft components.
“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,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Orion is a highly-capable, state-of-the-art spacecraft, designed specifically for deep space missions with astronauts, and an integral part of NASA’s infrastructure for Artemis missions and future exploration of the solar system.” [emphasis mine]
I honestly don’t know how NASA can commit to building these Orion capsules, when Congress has yet to fund them. I guess NASA has decided that Congress and elections are irrelevant, that they — as our anointed rulers in Washington — can make these decisions unilaterally, at their own whim.
One quote in the press release really stood out to me:
“As the only vehicle capable of deep space exploration, the Orion spacecraft is critical to America’s continued leadership,” said Rep. Brian Babin [R-Texas].
What a crock. Orion is pork, period. It is simple too small for any deep space mission, no matter what lies NASA tries to tell us. It will get us nowhere.
All this contract does is justify the existence of the Johnson Space Center, which really has no purpose since the retirement of the shuttle and the decision to fly future astronauts on privately built spacecraft. Having Orion to “manage” will convince people that the workers at Johnson are doing something, when really almost everything of importance will be done by Lockheed Martin.
This contract is also another component in NASA’s political strategy to get as many players in the space business committed to both Artemis and Gateway. Pretty soon they will have everyone on board, with big tax dollar bribes.
Meanwhile, what they are building won’t accomplish anything, and will strand us in lunar orbit for decades, while other countries land and learn how to build bases on other worlds.