Skip to main content

Trio of Orion spacecraft prepped for NASA moon missions

Three NASA Orion spacecraft in production.
NASA/Lockheed Martin

NASA has shared an image of three spacecraft that will play a central role in its next three Artemis missions to the moon.

Having already successfully tested the Orion spacecraft on a lunar flyby at the end of last year after being blasted into space by NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket, the American space agency is now overseeing the building of three more Orion capsules for upcoming Artemis missions.

In the image (top), the Orion craft for Artemis II is seen on the right, inside the high bay of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Artemis III is on the left and Artemis IV in the middle.

Orion manufacturer Lockheed Martin tweeted the same image with the comment: “The future of @NASA_Orion is looking pretty good.”

Seeing triple! 🤯

The future of @NASA_Orion is looking pretty good! The crew modules for #Artemis II, III and IV are in different production phases at @NASAKennedy in preparation for bringing astronauts back to the Moon. pic.twitter.com/aFjPrUy0Iq

— Lockheed Martin Space (@LMSpace) July 14, 2023

Each Orion capsule is in a different stage of production as technicians and engineers prepare the spacecraft to carry astronauts toward the moon on the upcoming missions, NASA said.

Technicians recently installed the heat shield on the Artemis II crew module, and teams are aiming to carry out acoustic testing in the next few months. When ready, the crew module will be linked to the service module in preparation for the lunar mission.

Artemis II is currently scheduled for November 2024 and will carry NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Victor Glover, and Reid Wiseman, plus Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen. The astronauts won’t land on the moon but instead perform a flyby, coming within a short distance of the lunar surface before returning home.

A successful mission will pave the way for Artemis III, which will endeavor to put the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface. In this mission, Orion will carry the astronauts to a lunar orbit where they’ll transfer to a modified version of SpaceX’s Starship lander. While currently slated for 2025, sticking to that date depends to some extent on the progress SpaceX makes with the testing of its Super Heavy and Starship vehicle.

Artemis IV, meanwhile, is planned for 2028 and will also put astronauts onto the lunar surface.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
NASA’s Orion spacecraft has ‘critical issues’ with its heat shield, report finds
The Orion crew module for NASA’s Artemis II mission.

The Orion crew module for NASA’s Artemis II mission. NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA is intending to use its new Orion capsule to send astronauts to the moon under its Artemis program, but a new report finds that issues with the capsule's heat shield could be a risk to crew safety. The report from NASA's inspector general was released this week and details issues with the heat shield, which lost some material during the first flight of Orion during the Artemis I mission in 2022.

Read more
Watch how NASA plans to land a car-sized drone on Titan
An artist's impression of NASA's Dragonfly drone.

 

A decision by NASA this week paved the way for the Dragonfly drone mission to continue to completion.

Read more
NASA gives green light to mission to send car-sized drone to Saturn moon
An artist's impression of NASA's Dragonfly drone.

NASA’s Mars helicopter mission is now well and truly over, but following in its footsteps is an even more complex flying machine that's heading for Saturn’s largest moon.

The space agency on Tuesday gave the green light to the Dragonfly drone mission to Titan. The announcement means the design of the eight-rotor aircraft can now move toward completion, followed by construction and a testing regime to confirm the operability of the machine and its science instruments.

Read more