The contract is all about getting almost brand new 6 Orion Space Shuttles for NASA.
In a ceremony at NASA Headquarters, the two space agencies signed a "joint statement of intent" regarding cooperation on NASA's plans to return humans to the moon. "If NASA follows through on that option, Lockheed would "[leverage] spacecraft production cost data from the previous six missions to enable the lowest possible unit prices", the company said.
For the first missions, NASA is already in an advanced stage with the first examples of the Orion capsule, built by Lockheed Martin together with Airbus.
NASA on Monday earmarked nearly $3 billion to Lockheed Martin to build three Orion capsules, to allow U.S. astronauts to return to the moon by 2024. The space agency's indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) Orion Production and Operations Contract (OPOC) is for an initial half-dozen of the manned capsules, with the option for six more to be ordered by 2030 for a potential total of 12.
Who says that only the USA can explore space efficiently? The 2024 Artemis III mission will be the first human landing on the moon in decades and will deliver the first woman to the lunar surface.
NASA believes that ordering in groups of three capsules - up to a dozen are now envisaged - should help it save money. Work on the spacecraft for the Artemis II mission, the first crewed flight to the Moon, is underway at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A dozen Orions doesn't specifically mean a round dozen Artemis missions are on the cards, though.
The Orion capsules are also created to be reusable.
The last of five major sections for the Boeing-built Space Launch System rocket are now connected.
Reusable Orion crew modules and systems, use of advanced manufacturing technologies, material and component bulk buys, and an accelerated mission cadence all contribute to considerable cost reductions on these production vehicles.
NASA signed an agreement with its Australian counterpart September 21 to cooperate on NASA's Artemis program as Australia seeks to further boost its space industry.