Aerojet Rocketdyne recently received a $67 million contract award from Lockheed Martin to provide propulsion systems for the Orion spacecraft that are planned to launch on Artemis missions VI-VIII.
The new work is an extension of the 2019 Orion Production and Operations Contract (OPOC). The Orion spacecraft recently completed a successful test flight during NASA’s Artemis I mission, proving it is capable of safely carrying humans to deep space on Artemis II.
The Artemis VI mission is planned for September 2030, VII is scheduled for September 2031 and VII has a presumed launch set for 2032.
The new contract option includes delivery of three additional sets of Orion’s service module auxiliary engines and three additional jettison motors. The eight auxiliary engines each produce 105 pounds of thrust to help maintain Orion’s in-space trajectory and position, and supplement the Orion Main Engine.
The jettison motor, located on Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS), generates 40,000 pounds of thrust to separate the LAS from the crew module during both nominal operations and abort scenarios, allowing the spacecraft to continue on its journey. The jettison motor is the only motor on the LAS that fires during every mission.
Aerojet Rocketdyne was awarded a separate contract in 2021 to provide new Orion Main Engines for future Artemis missions, and Lockheed Martin plans to use refurbished crew modules, which are propelled by reaction control thrusters, also built by Aerojet Rocketdyne, for later Artemis missions.
"Orion is NASA’s deep space exploration vehicle," said Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen P. Drake. "Aerojet Rocketdyne is delivering the propulsion systems that will take the first woman and the first person of color to the Moon and create a sustainable presence on the lunar surface and develop technologies that will one day enable us to send astronauts to Mars.”
The contract for three shipsets of Orion propulsion elements will be managed and performed out of the company’s facility in Redmond, Washington. Work will also be conducted in Huntsville, Alabama, and Orange County, Virginia.
Aerojet Rocketdyne recently completed the four RS-25 engines that will power the core stage of NASA’s super heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket during the historic Artemis III mission. Slated for launch around the middle of the decade, Artemis III is a planned lunar landing mission that will return humans to the surface of the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years. The four RS-25 engines that will power the SLS rocket’s core stage during the Artemis III mission will generate about 2 million pounds of combined thrust.