Technical issues with Lockheed Martin’s Orion capsule to delay next Artemis mission

It appears that technical issues with Lockheed Martin’s Orion capsule are one of the main reasons NASA has had to delay next Artemis mission, the first to put humans inside that capsule and then take them around the Moon.

In January 2024 it was reported that the mission would be delayed from a launch before the end of 2024 until 2025. We now know why:

NASA is working with Orion spacecraft prime contractor Lockheed Martin to resolve a handful of issues that came up late last year during ground testing, forcing the space agency to delay the launch readiness target date for its Artemis II circumlunar mission to September 2025. The Lockheed Martin assembly, test, and launch operations (ATLO) team at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is reinstalling some electronics and implementing workarounds for others affected by an electrical circuit flaw found in digital motor controllers on the spacecraft.

While a resolution to that issue appears to be getting closer, the Orion program and contractor teams are also working through the corrective actions process for a problem with how the Orion batteries handle the shock of an extreme abort case.

In other words, Lockheed Martin discovered these two electrical issues only last year, after spending almost two decades and more than $15 billion developing Orion.

As I predicted in January, “None of these dates will be met. I predict that further delays will be announced next year and the year after that, pushing all these missions back again, in small increments.” I also predicted that NASA will be lucky to land a human on the Moon by 2030, a mere fifteen years after its original target date of 2015, set by George Bush Jr. in 2004.

In the meantime, expect SpaceX’s Starship to begin regularly commercial and governmental flights to the Moon in the next five years. Long before SLS and Orion put humans on the Moon, Starship will be doing it privately for less cost.